September 11, 2022

JF2929: Boost NOI With These Interior Design Tips ft. Lisa Landry

Lisa Landry started her interior design firm specializing in residential and commercial properties more than 20 years ago. Today, she is the CEO of Above & Beyond Multifamily and Landry Designs. She is a multifamily syndicator and asset manager as well as an interior designer specializing in adding value to multifamily properties across the country, particularly in class B and C assets. 


When it comes to syndications, Lisa stresses that design is incredibly important. “Our job as designers for multifamily is to do whatever we can to boost the NOI,” she says. “It’s just amazing how quickly the value of the property can increase.” In this episode, Lisa shares her top interior design tips property owners can use to increase their NOI. 

Lisa Landry | Real Estate Background

  • CEO of Above & Beyond Multifamily and Landry Designs. She is a multifamily syndicator and asset manager, as well as an interior designer specializing in adding value to multifamily properties across the country, particularly class B and C assets.
  • Portfolio:
    • GP of 108 units
    • Recently had an LP property go full cycle
  • She has won 35 International Design Awards, been published nationally 18 times, and is a 10-time winner of Living Magazine's Best Interior Designer award.
  • Based in: Ft. Worth, TX
  • Say hi to her at:
  • Best Ever Book: Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book by Joe Fairless & Theo Hicks
  • Greatest lesson:
    • Real Estate: I have learned how rewarding it is to transform B & C properties into safe, beautiful places to live and work. Also, to provide multifamily investment opportunities to regular, everyday people who weren't aware of the multifamily space prior to introducing it to them.
    • Interior Design: I have learned that people's moods, happiness, and productivity can be extremely affected by their surroundings and that people like to live in unique spaces. That's what Landry Designs is known for.



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Slocomb Reed: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Slocomb Reed and I'm here with Lisa Landry. Lisa is joining us from Fort Worth, Texas. She is the CEO of Above and Beyond Multifamily, where she's a multifamily syndicator and an asset manager, and Landry Designs, where she's an interior designer specializing in adding value to multifamily properties across the country, particularly Class B and Class C assets. Her current portfolio - she's a GP of 108 units, and recently had an LP deal go full cycle. Lisa, can you start us off with a little bit more about your background and what you're currently focused on?

Lisa Landry: Sure. Thanks for having me, Slocomb. Excited to be here. I started my interior design firm over 20 years ago, and we really just specialized in residential and commercial. And about 10 years ago actually, a property management company that manages multifamily communities, about 45 of them, contacted me; he'd found our website and he asked if we would be interested and helping with 10 of his projects that year, completely doing lots of CapEx work, major renovations to these projects. I had never done multifamily before, and I was just curious to go and see what they were. I was sort of surprised when I drove up, because I had really nice apartments in my mind, and they were really B and C class communities. But I quickly realized that this was very similar to what we'd been doing all these years. So we actually did help do those 10 projects that one year; our team did. I have a team of about 25 now. So we helped do those. And I had five of the 10 professionally photographed, and entered them into an international design contest that was judged by magazine editors from across the country... And they didn't have a multifamily category, but they had commercial, so I entered them in the commercial category. And they actually swept that category; they won first, second, third. So we were so surprised because they were B and C class properties... But that just sort of developed our love for these properties, and now, through the years since then, we've decorated 150 or maybe 200 properties across the country.

So that's kind of how I got started in multifamily. And then in about 2019, I started thinking about getting out of the stock market. I was just very concerned about paper assets, versus tangible assets, and my family has a real estate background... So I started researching asset classes, and realized that multifamily was the asset class that I really knew something about.

Slocomb Reed: Of course.

Lisa Landry: So I decided to kind of go to podcast university, and listen to hundreds of podcasts. I learned everything I could, and that's how I really got interested in investing, and then becoming a syndicator. So that was kind of the beginning of the journey, and I'm happy to share more about what happened after.

Slocomb Reed: Lisa, I want to go ahead and talk about your syndication, your GP-ing and your asset management, because I have so many questions about your design work. You were telling me before we started the recording that you are a listener of the show, that one of my episodes aired this morning, and you were listening to it... So you may already know, I'm an apartment owner-operator in Cincinnati, Ohio. The bulk of my portfolio is A class and C class, based on location and tenant base. So I really want to get into that. But first, in the introduction you point out that you focus on asset management; in the 108 deals on which your a GP, is your primary focus asset management? Are those co-GPed with other people who raised the funds and found and acquired the deal?

Lisa Landry: Yes. We do have a small team, and there's one other asset manager and myself; we're the primary asset manager. So we're on the weekly calls with the on-site team, and with the regional management team... She really oversees more the financial side of things, and keeps up with all of that, and then I oversee the CapEx projects, investor relations, branding, creativity, upgrading the property...

Slocomb Reed: That seems like a natural segue from your design work, to be asset-managing CapEx projects; that makes total sense. How much of your work as an asset manager is focused on getting the most out of your rehab dollars? Do you find yourself trying to budget really tightly?

Lisa Landry: Well, what I would say is, because that was my first deal as a GP, they had already sort of prepared their budget when I came in; the underwriting was approved, the LOI had already been accepted when I joined the team. So we did find that it was very tight on the budget that they had set originally. I think it's better to have a little bit bigger budget. When we work with syndicators across the country, we work with them on their first project, and then they're usually like, "Oh, we wish we would have spent a little bit more money, or had a little bit more money to do that next thing." So usually, on their second or third project they budget a little bit more for it, because we feel like it's so important that the branding across the property is cohesive; even little things like what does the website look like - that's the very first thing we look at, because that's where potential residents go before they ever come and look at your property. They're deciding which properties they're gonna go see. So how does the website look? How does the logo look? What's that first picture they're seeing of the property? So we really assist with all those things, making sure that all that's cohesive, before they ever even get to the property.

And then when they drive up, the first thing is even directional signage. Is their signage to find the leasing office quickly? That's one thing that so many teams seem to overlook, and it's an irritant to the potential resident when they're trying to find the leasing office. So making sure that those little things are taken care of. How does it look when they drive up to the leasing office? What's the first impression? Is the door paint chipped? How does the landscaping look? Is there any trash around? What does that little rug look like that's in front of the door? When they open the door, does it squeak? Does it need to be oiled? Does somebody greet them immediately? What's the smell of the leasing office? What's the sound? Is there music playing? All those little elements go into that first 15 seconds, so people decide if they want to live on the property or not... So we really attack all of those things first, and then make the leasing office just look amazing.

So when people are budgeting, we're always thinking about leasing office, kind of the jewel of the property, and how can we make that look amazing when they walk in, like "I would want to live here in this community!" And then work our way out. So then we're typically going to putting budget into exteriors; do we need to paint the whole property? Does it just need accent trim? Do we need to look at signage? And then really looking at the model unit, the unit interiors design packages, do we want to start testing some different ones, do we want to do a gold and a platinum, or silver, gold and platinum? ...test different levels of what you can do in those units, and then test different rents to see if the ROI is worth it. And then really assessing all the amenities. So it is budgeting and figuring out where to put the money, and where you're going to get the biggest bang for the buck when you're on a limited budget.

Slocomb Reed: Awesome. I want to follow the natural path I'm seeing for this conversation... Lisa, I have to ask a quick question first. In your design work, as well as your asset management work - it sounds like they're very correlated - what is the average size, unit count, property value of the B and C-class multifamily properties that you're working on?

Lisa Landry: I would say the smallest we've done is about 100 units. That's typical. We started in the DFW area, because we're in Texas, and we really just did DFW originally. But then we started getting requests to go to San Antonio, and Austin... And then we got request to go to Arizona, and Alabama, and Nashville, and all over where all these great areas are right now for multifamily. So we've expanded to beyond. So about 100 units is typically where we start, but we've done up to maybe 500 units. And we'll definitely work on A class, but a lot of times they're so new, they don't need much. But if they do if it's time to refresh; if it's been 10 years, that's definitely time to refresh. The styles have changed, and we're happy to do that.

Slocomb Reed: Lisa, when you say B and C Class multifamily properties, what do you mean?

Lisa Landry: I'm meaning more like properties built in the '70s and '80s. '70s would be C class, and '80s would be B class. '80s, maybe early '90s... A class is typically going to be 10 or 15 years old.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah, absolutely. So that is a way that a lot, if not the majority of multifamily owner-operators and syndicators talk; that makes a lot of sense. Here in Cincinnati we're in a very old market, so we don't end up using that terminology as much, because what I consider my A class portfolio was all built in the 1800's.

Lisa Landry: Oh, wow.

Lisa Landry: Yeah. Obviously, all been well kept since then; brick structures that have already lasted 120 to 160 years, with mechanical updates along the way, of course. And when I say A class, I'm talking about within the Cincinnati market I have a premium location, I can charge a premium rent, and that is if I have a premium quality space that I am leasing, that those premium rent-paying tenants want. And when I say C class, I'm talking about the people who are excited that Amazon will pay them $15 an hour, but speaking on what's happened in the last couple of years, they're also excited that because Amazon moved into the town, they can work at the grocery store, or the fast food restaurant, or the carwash, and make $13, $14, $15, even $16 an hour as well. So when I'm seeing C class, Lisa, that's what pops into my mind.

So help me out here, help our listeners understand this... When you said that you focus on design for B and C Class apartments, I'm thinking to myself, I've got market rents of $750 for one-bedroom apartments and $900 for two-bedroom apartments. Also, none of my assets are of the size that you're talking about. I don't have any leasing offices. I really want to ask just an unsophisticated "How can you help me? What can you do for people like me?" kind of question, Lisa. So where do you want to take that?

Lisa Landry: Yeah, I think that's great, because what I'm talking about is what we've done previously. And now that I think about it, there was a property that was maybe like 80 units, that we did in Fort Worth, for a customer; that was an older property that had been well maintained. So it's really more the tenant base, like what you're talking about... And that helps us determine what do we put into that property. Are we going to be doing granite countertops in the units? Are we going to be doing resourced laminate? Those kinds of things. Are we gonna be adding all kinds of pendant lights and high-end lighting in that more than A-class situation. So I'm happy to help in any of those ways. But that is a different community with the age of the properties that you're talking about, and we're happy to help in the same way we help everyone else on those kinds of properties.

Slocomb Reed: The vast majority of apartment inventory in workforce housing neighborhoods was built in the late '60s, early '70s. To your point, brick construction.

Lisa Landry: Right.

Slocomb Reed: So let's hope this is relatable to as many Best Ever listeners as we can make it, but let's talk about those 1960s, 1970s construction properties. If you don't mind - so this is applicable to me. Let's skip the leasing office and the website for now... What are some of the top tips that you have, or some of the things that you most often see from a design perspective that lead to the highest return on investment in those '60s and '70s build apartments?

Lisa Landry: Okay. I think that A, first impressions when you walk up, regardless of there's a leasing office or not. So what does the property look like when you walk up? So the exterior of the building itself - does it need painting? Does it need freshening? Does it need shutters added? Does it need contrast trim? Does it need a new roof? If you're doing a new roof, what color should that be? What about the signage? What about your branding? Is it cohesive throughout the property? We assist with signage and logos and all of that type of thing too, to make sure that it looks great. So it's all those first-impression things. But then when you get into the units, it's more "How can you make that look high-end?" and like maybe a model home would look. So using two or three-tone paint, doing nicer six-panel doors, or more modern doors, painting fireplaces if there are fireplaces, doing really nice, framed mirrors, that are not just plain, taking furr downs out if there's furr downs in the kitchen over the bar, adding pendant lights there... Really looking at all the little details, thinking about the flooring, the countertops, adding microwaves, micro-hoods, if there's not, because that takes up so much space on countertops... People are putting in wine fridges in some of these properties... Little things that can separate you. Even like in the closets. I like to paint the shelves like the trim color; like, maybe we're doing a dark gray or something like that, and then paint the rod black.

Slocomb Reed: Lisa, are you doing dark gray trim? Is that what I just heard you say?

Lisa Landry: We do in some properties. It depends on the property. But yes, dark gray trim looks great, accent walls, sometimes... Sometimes you can give them one free accent wall in their space. It could be their living room sofa wall or something... And they could pick from three colors that you've pre selected. So it makes it look more high-end and more customized to them.

Slocomb Reed: Lisa, in some ways, I could see myself being your ideal client, because these are all things that I want to think about as little as possible. For those of you watching on YouTube, I'm wearing a polo I got [00:15:04.08] several years ago for like 10 bucks. It's a nice polo. It was on clearance. That tends to be how I think. So when I'm looking at my lower income apartments, where I want to know that I'm providing a quality place to live -- well, first of all, let me say, Lisa, that when it comes to my version of the nice website and the nice leasing office, is the vast majority of my prospective tenants come from Zillow,, and [unintelligible 00:15:31.17] I use professional photography for everything. I'm also a residential real estate agent, and I know, I recognize the difference, and I will pay for it every time. Not every single apartment, but every single property, every single floor plan has its professional photography that I use.

My most important factor for catching the good prospective tenants is response time. I make sure that when they inquire, we're on it; that we're polite, courteous, respectful, that we let them know as quickly as possible whether or not they would be qualified, answer their questions, and then get them scheduled for a showing as soon as we can.

That said, what I'd like to do is give you my general tips, when I'm looking at, let's say one-bedroom apartments with a market rent $700 to $850, which does not leave me a lot of room to spend on wine fridges, in any of these apartments.

Here are some general things that I do. Please correct me where I'm wrong, so that I can learn, and so our Best Ever listeners can learn. Let me know if there's something that you think I'm doing right, and where you think are great places for me to improve, and we'll bring the Best Ever listeners along with us on this ride. Hopefully, any of them involved in operations, asset management or active owner operators will gain value.

So the first thing is it amazes me from a cost perspective how much of an impact paint has on a place, because of how much of your field of vision is impacted by things that are painted. I focus on bright colors. I'm still all white trim; I know some properties that I'm managing now, some that I own, I inherited dark gray doors, and that's fine. I have a light gray wall paint that is my standard go-to. If I'm putting in new cabinetry, I'm using white again, in part because these 1960s and early 1970s buildings are fairly compact, and I want the space to look big.

The only other tip I have there on paint is that the higher the sheen, the more reflective it is, the more detail it shows, but also the more light it reflects, and the brighter it makes the space look. I'm a big fan of LVP flooring, durable, relatively waterproof, especially if it's been installed correctly... I usually end up with a more grayscale floor as well. But again, I'm looking for affordable and durable.

Outside of that, a big thing that I see, that I pounce on in my value-add and my repositions is frankly just outlets, switches, covers, thermostats, light fixtures... They don't need to be fancy, but they should be uniform, and the outlet switches cover should match the trim; they should be white. When it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, I want to defer to your expertise here. The question I always end up getting is "Do I paint this vanity, or do I replace it?" Same with cabinets. Some places I take over have mismatched cabinets, so I'll either go all new, or we match the newest thing. From all the things I'm talking about thus far, Lisa, please tell me the things that are giving you goose bumps that I need to stop doing, but also what am I doing right and what's next in these general rules of thumb?

Lisa Landry: Okay, sure. First of all, let me just mention the flooring, because that's something that you mentioned, and the LDP is great. I think that's the way to go. The thing I would say is we've had the gray for so long, and in design we're transitioning out of gray. We're trending back towards more browns and tans. And actually, the color that's the most popular right now is a more Palomino color. So it's going to take a little bit of time for these multifamily vendors to catch up with that, but I would say trend more towards taupe than pure gray as you start changing out going forward, because that's the direction things are going.

The other thing I would mention is yes, definitely light gray on the walls I think looks great, but the gray needs to have a more taupe color undertone, a little bit more brown in it than we used to, where it used to be like a blue gray. So real pale gray on the walls is great. The white trim is great in these less expensive properties...

One thing you can do though is in the kitchen paint the cabinets darker gray; just that. And you'd think that the white is going to make the space look brighter or larger or whatever, but it's actually the opposite. Light colors come towards us; visually, our eyes see white before anything else. So the lighter a color is, our eyes go straight to that item, and it comes towards us.

So girls always say "If you put on white pants, you feel bigger than if you put on black pants. It makes you feel heavier." So white looks bigger, actually. So when you do something dark, and particularly if it's kind of far away from you, it actually pushes that wall away from you visually. So it pushes the wall back a little bit.

So a lot of times we'll do the darker gray on the kitchen cabinets. I think it's great to change the door fronts, if you can. On the countertops, if you're going to refinish the countertops and that level of property, go really light on the countertops when you do your resurfacing. Go with the lightest color that they have. So a lot of times it's almost a white with little gray flecking or something in it. That creates high contrast with the cabinet color and creates a lot of drama when people walk in. So I think that's a good solution.

I do think changing out all of the light switches and all of that to crisp white is perfect. I mean, that's definitely something that we would do. The cabinets in the bathroom I would paint to match the kitchen. So I love them in the dark gray. I love the countertop refinished and just that light color resurfacing, and I like using the shower rod that's bode, so it gives them a lot more room in the shower. That's not very expensive to do, but I'm telling you, people remember those things from one apartment to another when they go look at them.

Slocomb Reed: I think about that in hotel rooms. I've never searched on a hotel room website, "Is the shower curtain bode?" but I always remember.

Lisa Landry: Yes. And then the other thing I would say is if you're really trying to save budget, if you can put the LVP everywhere except in the bedroom, and then go ahead and go with carpet in the bedroom, that is cheaper. People are typically not eating as much in their bedroom as they are like let's say in a living room... So that is one area that you can save some budget if you're tight on it. And make sure that you're doing shag carpeting of some sort, or a textured carpet that has that gray/brown undertone, instead of that blue/gray undertone.

Another thing that's really inexpensive to do is if you do have fireplaces in your units, to put or an inexpensive framed mirror from one of the vendors... I like using black for the frames, because again, it creates real high contrast. Put that over the fireplace and it makes the space look twice as big in the living room. And it's something they notice when they first walk in, that it's real bright and airy.

You mentioned the texture of the paint... We always recommend semi-gloss on the cabinet's, not high gloss at all, because you're right, it does show every little thing. So semi-gloss is the most forgiving, and it's really scrubbable and washable.

Break: [00:22:35.04] to [00:24:20.24]

Slocomb Reed: Okay, I know there are some Best Ever listeners who want to move on from this topic... That's fine, for those of you who want us to move on, there are many more who are gaining value. I usually end up doing semi-gloss trim, semi-gloss cabinets, doors, etc. but eggshell on the walls. I don't want to use a flat paint, because a flat paint isn't as washable or wipeable. But I'm not trying to draw that much attention to a basic plaster or sheet rock wall.

Lisa Landry: Yes. Flat paint actually in residential is what we always recommend, because it absorbs the light. It doesn't reflect any light, so it is the most forgiving of all the finishes visually. But you cannot touch it up easily, it scuffs easily, so definitely eggshell or something like that for the walls is ideal.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. I will say there was one time I actually did a semi-gloss ceiling. It was for a basement apartment where my windows were very limited, and I was just trying to get as much natural light in there as possible. I don't remember who advised that I do it... But yeah, you see some imperfections, but at least there's some bright natural light in a basement with a two, three-foot by two-foot window, and that's it.

Lisa Landry: The only thing is, it's really shiny, and whatever shiny draws your eye to it. So when you have a shiny ceiling, that looks less expensive. So I always go flat on the ceilings; it just doesn't reflect any light then. It's still crisp, bright white, but it just blends with that white trim, if you're doing white trim. It makes the space feel large.

And regarding syndicators and all of this that's just decorating kind of stuff, I think it's super-important, because our job as designers for multifamily is to do whatever we can to boost the NOI. We're trying to get the rents up. As soon as we do these makeovers with these properties, the occupancy goes up, they start raising rents, we start testing different units, with different finishes in them... Maybe we add pendant lights to this one, and a [unintelligible 00:26:14.20] and we charge $50 more a month for this one, test how those get rented out... And it's just amazing how quickly the value of the property can increase. And yes, it's just all decorating, but this is what people look for when they're looking at apartments, is the visual.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah. And a lot of the stuff that you're talking about, I'm already applying... To a smaller portfolio, but in my A class stuff, a lot of what you're talking about is already happening.

Lisa Landry: Great.

Slocomb Reed: I will say, I just had this conversation and a completely separate, unrelated aspect of my business... That perception is reality. A lot of people in my position who do apartments for a living and have been doing apartments for a living for several years - we know it's safe, we know it's functional, we know how to fix things, and we forget that what we are trying to create for people is the feeling of home, much more so than the function of home; the way people feel when they are prospective tenants is going to be what gives them their perceived value of the rent and whether or not they want to live there. And as they continue to live there, responsiveness is just as important as fixing the problem if the problem is an emergency. Just how quickly you can acknowledge someone, but also, to your point, it amazes me sometimes how much more someone will value a space based on a change and a couple of finishes. Newer cabinets and a newer countertop, and the difference -- man, I'm the guy who's always gonna buy white appliances for myself, but the stainless steel appliances... First of all, it amazes me that appliance companies get away with charging more for them. But the way that people look at stainless steel appliances - and I know Cincinnati is 10 years behind the rest of the world, and that's why Mark Twain likes it here... But just stainless steel appliances instead of white, paying a little bit more, and the perception of that kitchen and that place to live skyrockets.

Lisa Landry: Yes, that's true. And just think, if you really couldn't afford to live in a house, you couldn't afford to buy a house, and you've been going to model units and looking at houses and you want to live in an apartment, or you need to live in an apartment, to be able to look at a property, and it looks like what you're seeing in model homes - that's a big deal, because that's what they want. That's the kind of lifestyle that they want. And you can do it in different levels. You can do it in the C classes, and B classes, and A classes, at different levels, and still make it look as great as possible for that level, and really, what you're trying to do is stand out from all the other properties they're going to see that day. Because they go and look at a lot usually before they decide. So what can you do to make them remember you?

I don't know if you have a pool at any of your properties, but so many of the properties that we start working on, the pool furniture is all beige. They've just gone to like Home Depot or Lowe's or something and put some furniture out there. That is the opposite of what you want to do. You want to put the brightest, most dramatic, hotel-looking furniture that you can out by the pool, with umbrellas, and make it look amazing, because that's what they're going to remember. Plus, it looks great for the website. So that's where we're focused.

Slocomb Reed: This is me talking about myself again, but the only property I own that ever had a pool - it had been filled in and now I use it for more parking.

Lisa Landry: Yes, that is beneficial.

Slocomb Reed: That's the classic Slocomb answer to a lot of things. I get to tell my tenants I have more parking spaces than bedrooms at that property. It's a 26-unit apartment building. That, I believe, at least in Cincinnati, in a workforce housing neighborhood, that matters a lot to them.

The last anecdote here, from my own experience... I think there are a lot of people who are in this space, who are grappling with similar questions. I had a two-bedroom, one and a half bath apartment come vacant in a highly desirable neighborhood, very close to a neighborhood called Over the Rhine in Cincinnati. Rents double the average for the Cincinnati MSA, easily, for these kinds of apartments. It's the kind of neighborhood and the kind of property where you will see a return on spending in your renovation, and using premium quality finishes.

Based on the budget I had for the turn of the time, I could have redone the kitchen and the bathroom, or gotten all new appliances, added the electrical and the plumbing for a dishwasher, and put laundry in the unit, turning a coat closet into a laundry closet. So I chose dishwasher, new appliances, new floors were necessary, and paint and the whole nine... But I decided to go with function and put laundry in the unit, add the dishwasher and the other amenities things that you know you can list on a rental listing... I decided to go that route, instead of doing anything with the cabinets and the countertops, and putting in a tile [unintelligible 00:31:04.04] instead of the fiberglass tub. Generally speaking, I know you're not as familiar with Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati as I am, but what do you think about making those kinds of decisions? You have a fixed budget, you have some ideas, you can only execute on half of them - what should you do?

Lisa Landry: I do think that's a good point about the amenities list on the website, because again, that's what they're comparing before they go look. So the more you can put on that list, whether it's -- for example, if there is a leasing office, even though it's tiny, we try to squeeze in a business center, which could be just a desk in there with a computer on it, that somebody could sit and look up something or whatever when they're there, but it's on the list now, a business center.

So I do think the list of amenities is super-important, and it is functional. So I think we always have to think function first, and then try to make it look as great as we can at that price level. That's where we're trying to take as much off of the syndication team's plate as possible, or the ownerships team's plate as possible, to sort of let this one thing not be such a big burden on the team; us come and work on all the designs, and come up with ideas, and pros and cons, and different budgets, and work with the property management team, and the on-site team, or the construction team... And then present the ownership team with some options and let them decide, just like you're talking about, what works best for them.

Slocomb Reed: That makes a lot of sense. Any other general guidance for us B and C class apartment owners and syndicators?

Lisa Landry: I just think, again, if you do have a leasing office, which - in most of Texas and these other ones, they have leasing offices that we go to; a lot of people just think, "Oh, well, it's just potential tenants coming in there. Or maybe they don't even come in that much." But we're on-site with these properties a lot, and that's a revolving door in these leasing offices a lot of times... People coming in to drop off a payment, people coming in to buy a laundry ticket, people coming in to turn in a maintenance request, when they're supposed to be doing it online, but they still come in. They want that face to face activity, particularly in B and C. So people always think it's just a potential residence, but there's three things really that you want to make that look great for. One is potential residents to want to live there within the first 15 seconds. Two is current residents to renew. It's way cheaper to renew people than to do these unit turns. But three, it's the on-site team. Whoever your on-site team is, the environment that they're working in. And you mentioned about the environment, and how that affects your mood, and happiness, and all those kinds of things. That environment that they work in, wherever that is, if it looks amazing, a) they're happy to come to work, b) they're proud of it, and c) they can confidently charge more rent, because they know that this is a community that's a level above, with finishes... And it doesn't even have to be expensive. It's just how does it look when people walk in, so you can do it at different levels.

Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Well, Lisa, are you ready for our Best Ever lightning round?

Lisa Landry: I am!

Slocomb Reed: Great. What is the best ever book you've recently read?

Lisa Landry: My favorite is really the Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book, Joe's and Theo's book. I referenced that book so frequently... I just keep going back to it, particularly if people are trying to build their brand, and a thought leadership platform. I have a meetup group and all that that I host... And there's just so many gold nuggets in that book that I reference it again and again.

Slocomb Reed: Nice. What is your best ever way to give back?

Lisa Landry: I'm a huge animal lover, so I donate to an animal sanctuary that's called Oliver and Friends. They rescue all kinds of injured animals and displaced animals, and llamas, and horses, and pigs, and chickens, and turkeys, and just all kinds of animals.

Slocomb Reed: Nice. This will be an interesting question, Lisa... Within your commercial real estate investing experience I want to include your design experience. What is the biggest mistake you've made, and the best ever lesson that resulted from it?

Lisa Landry: Hmm... Well, when I first started investing, I invested passively the very first time. And I did a good amount of research, but when I invested, it was in a community, or in an area, a market that this indicator had not invested in previously, and they had done so well on all their other properties, all the way through. And this one was supposed to cashflow, and had great return potential, and all of that. They only owned it about two or three years, but that whole time it didn't cash flow.

The thing that I learned was they were very transparent during this whole process, because it was a new market, they were trying to find property management companies, they kept changing property management companies... Every month, they were transparent about what was going on with the property. So it did not cashflow for the whole time. When they sold, I got a 40% return, which is great, and I had 100% bonus depreciation on my investment from a couple of years before... So it turned out great. It was just a good learning experience for me not to just jump in on something without really being familiar with that market. It was in a different state, I wasn't really familiar with it... I sort of just trusted the partnership team.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. So the lesson here is that even though it was a GP team that had some success, you followed them into a market they weren't familiar with, which meant they didn't have the network they needed to be able to execute on their business plan. And the lesson is...

Lisa Landry: Don't do that again. Really research the market, or make sure they know, or they have some good connections in that market... But the other lesson for me was, as a syndicator, if something does come up, this transparency that they provided made me still trust them, that they were doing the best they could every single month. So I bring that into my syndication side.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. And yeah, I guess if I were trying to put my words on that, it would be make sure you're investing with syndicators who are putting themselves in a position to succeed. Lisa, what is your best ever advice?

Lisa Landry: I would say for people that are trying to get into multifamily or trying to kind of up their game in multifamily, that it truly is a people business. One of the things that I heard recently, that I thought was really interesting, is when you go to these in-person events, which is what I recommend, when we can, to do in-person events - that's really the way to get to know people better... It was called the Hot Potato Conversation, and it's where when you meet someone, you start asking them a lot of questions about themselves... Where are you in your multifamily journey? Is this one of your first events? How long have you been doing multifamily? What do you do in your regular life? Those kinds of things. Ask a lot of questions. And every time they answer you, answer very briefly; professionally and nicely and friendly, but briefly, and hot potato it right back to them with another question.

So they are speaking literally like 90% of the time that you're in this conversation, which is how people remember you... Because they don't want to just listen to you the whole time. When they finally do ask about you though, I think it's good to have something ready, just a really short, little summary about yourself, that doesn't take very long to talk to them about, and then to give like a short little next step goal that you're working on, which could be "I'm wanting to GP in a deal, or co-GP in a deal, and here's what I bring to the table." Maybe they have high net worth, and they have liquidity, or they have a network that they could do capital raising in. Whatever it is that they could bring to the table... Maybe CapEx experience, or construction experience, or investor relation experience; those kinds of things that they could apply. I think it's good to put that out there, right then with what their next step is, and then ask a favor. And by this time, they know you pretty well from you asking them so many questions... So just say, "Can I ask you a favor? If you don't mind, if you hear of someone that's needing something like that on their team, could you just pass my name along?" And then following it up with my email to them, a personalized email, keeping notes on them, and then really building that relationship every time you see them. Make notes, so that you can ask questions about what they told you... That's worked the best for me to really get to know people in a closer way, and to build partnership relationships.

Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Lisa, where can people get in touch with you?

Lisa Landry: If they're wanting design help, then it's info [at] If they're wanting multifamily investment help or knowledge or sharing, then it's Lisa [at]

Slocomb Reed: Lisa, I and all of our listeners expect you to have fabulous websites... And the links to those websites are in the show notes. Lisa, thank you. Best Ever listeners, thank you as well for tuning in. If you've gained value from this conversation, please do subscribe to our show. Leave us a five star review and share this with a friend. Probably a friend who's in the apartment syndication or owner-operation space in B and C Class assets, that you know that we can add value to through this conversation about design. Thank you, and have a best ever day.

Lisa Landry: Thanks for having me, Slocomb.

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