February 10, 2024

JF3446: How This Fund Manager Vets Investment Opportunities in 2024 ft. Paul Shannon




Paul Shannon, owner and manager of the RedHawk Real Estate Invest Wise Collective, joins our host Joe Cornwell on the Best Ever Show. Paul is also an owner-operator and LP investor who went from medical equipment sales to buying real estate, eventually investing as a limited partner, which led him to start a fund to help other LPs enjoy the benefits of real estate. In this episode, Paul discusses his strategy for vetting investment opportunities for his LPs, the maturation of the syndication model, his outlook for 2024 and beyond, and more.

Paul Shannon | Real Estate Background

  • Principal at RedHawk Real Estate and Fund Manager at InvestWise Collective
  • Portfolio:
    • ~125 rental units
    • 15 LP positions (multifamily, industrial, storage, mixed-use, notes, ATM, PE)
  • Based in: Indianapolis, IN
  • Say hi to him at:
  • redhawkinvesting.com
  • investwisecollective.com
  • LinkedIn
  • Best Ever Book: The Creature From Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin
  • Greatest Lesson: Don't chase fads, be patient, study financial history and apply it to today's current events.

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Joe Cornwell (00:03.094)
Best ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm your host, Joe Cornwell. And today we are joined by Paul Shannon. Paul is the owner and manager of the RedHawk Real Estate and InvestWise Collective. He is a single and multifamily operator. They have a fund that he manages and they buy distressed value add properties for flips or burs. He is currently invested in 125 units. He's also an LP investor. Paul, thank you for joining us. How are you today?

Paul Shannon (00:33.695)
Joe, I'm doing great. Happy to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

Joe Cornwell (00:36.746)
And this is your first time on the show, so we appreciate you joining us. Why don't you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into real estate.

Paul Shannon (00:45.099)
Sure, absolutely happy to.

I'm 42 years old. Like a lot of people when I was 18, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life, so I majored in business, came out of college, got a sales job, and did that for about 15, 16 years. The last half of that, so eight or nine years, I spent in medical device and capital equipment sales. I was selling to surgeons in the operating room, all of the lasers and equipment that's used for cataract surgery and all the implants that go into the eye after the eye, or the lens is removed.

And I was spending a lot of time on the road. I was getting up early in the morning and gone from the house before my kids even woke up. And as my family was growing, I just realized that there must be a better way. It must be a different path, where I was sort of getting the itch to do something entrepreneurial. So I started buying real estate back in 2016, got a duplex, got a couple of single family homes, was utilizing the BRRRR strategy. And then by 2019, I felt like it was, at that point, the biggest risk I could take was not taking a chance on myself and just staying with what I had, which was the BRRRR in hand, right?

So I left my job with the support of my family, went all in on real estate, and that's when we really started to scale things up. I was doing everything myself at that point, property management, project management, identifying deals, underwriting deals, but learned quickly that some of the core competencies that make you effective in real estate, I wasn't necessarily that good at, so I needed to outsource stuff. So I started doing that and just scaled into larger assets and then eventually, 2021, 22 came and felt like there was a top in the market and everything was pretty frothy. And I had been investing as a passive investor as well and decided to kind of shift my focus towards LP positions. And we started a fund to help other LPs do the same. So that's where we are today.

Joe Cornwell (02:40.638)
Interesting and you said your background this entire time as you were kind of doing the solo operator thing was in Burge type of deals

Paul Shannon (02:49.851)
Yeah, single family or multifamily, we successfully bird a 40 unit apartment complex back in late 2020, early 2021. So of course, that's when you were getting a lot of tailwinds from the market that aren't there today. But that was really the strategy was to try to play with a finite amount of capital and keep that velocity of money going and snowball it. We were pretty successful in doing that.

And today we're finding more yield and opportunity in single family than multifamily on the active side of our, of my business opportunities out there, you know, in commercial and multifamily as well as an LP. So when you expand your bandwidth essentially or your geographic and your asset criteria, I went from, you know, solely focusing on multifamily in Indianapolis and Evansville, the two markets that I operate in Indiana, to the entire nation and, you know, a lot of different asset classes, industrial, retail.

We looked at debt funds and I found that kind of being able to pivot and be nimble has been the most successful way for me to stay in the business full time.

Joe Cornwell (03:57.93)
Yeah, that's interesting. And I have not invested into any funds as an LP, but I am curious having someone with your experience and background in real estate the last several years, what made you want to shift into, investing as a passive investor?

Paul Shannon (04:15.819)
Sure, that's a great question. You know, it was kind of an evolution over time. In 2021, late in the year, if you recall, inflation was running at about 9% at that point. You had the federal funds rate at zero. You had interest rates that were sub 3%. And you had a market that was very, very hot.

And at that point, you know, the conversation around inflation had sort of lost its luster. The term transitory no longer seemed realistic and it became more of a structural conversation. And Jerome Powell started talking about the need to raise rates to stabilize the economy because everything was on fire. And if you look back at history, financial history, those rate increases can happen at a fairly significant pace.

And cap rates are not correlated 100% to interest rates, but the cost of debt certainly affects or the cost of capital in general, affects asset prices. So we felt like if we're gonna play in markets that have four cap, five cap pricing, and cap rates are to expand, you can see what that does to the asset value unless you're growing NOI at an extremely fast pace.

So we started underwriting to permanent debt agency loans that were fixed rate and we were debt service coverage restrained where we're asking prices were and this was before it was cool to do so people were still buying assets with bridge debt so as you can imagine if somebody's going up against us as competition and we're at 60% LTV and they're at 75% loan to cost on a floating rate they're gonna be able to be more competitive on the price and meet the seller at their expectations where we were coming in probably 85% of guidance in a lot of cases so we were just getting hammered, you know, doing the same thing, beating your head against the wall.

The definition of insanity is thinking that you can do the same thing and expect the different results. So we just kind of figured, okay, the market's lost touch with reality at this moment. We're going to step back for a little bit. And we were sitting on some capital from some other projects that had come due and we had exited. So at that point, I looked at my LP portfolio and was still finding attractive opportunities.

I'm a member of the Left Field Investors Club and the founder, Jim Piper and I have known other for over a decade. And him and I were talking on the phone one day and we talked about how we could help limited partners. And to me it was like how can we help limited partners and general partners. So we formed Investwise Collective, the fund. I'm in partnership with the left field investors, two of their founding members, Ryan Stieg and Pat Wills are my direct counterparts that I work with on a daily basis. And really the idea was twofold. One, we had seen that general partners had a much more difficult time raising capital.

It was getting more and more challenging. They were having to spend more time on the phone, making three times the amount of phone calls. That obviously comes with increased overhead. So if we could aggregate retail investors that write checks 25,000, 50,000, and bring them all together to write a million dollar check for a general partner, that's a real value. That cuts overhead. That streamlines capital sources. And through that value add, no pun intended, we could then command or leverage that and get better terms the enhanced promote or a better preferred return or something else.

And then we could pass that, those enhanced terms onto our investors while also making our fund economics work. So that was one angle. And then on the limited partner side, we saw that a lot of people had invested right through and gone through the brick wall that I mentioned before of 2021 and 2022. And now you had situations where investors were noticing, LPs were noticing that they had maybe gotten caught up in the that glitters as gold, right? And some of these deals that they had gotten into were pausing distributions, started to make capital calls. In 2024, I think we're gonna see some of those deals have even worse outcomes where they'll be sold for whatever's due on the loan or even less. And equity would be completely.

So people are realizing this, maybe waiting for that phone call. And we as a group were able to sidestep that. So we felt like, okay, if we can kind of focus full time on this and help the busy professional that maybe doesn't have the time to go through a PPM, go through an operating agreement, do background checks, vet sponsors to the level that we're doing, look at the amount of deal flow that we see, we can bring real value to folks.

And we're not registered investment advisors by any means, but we're trying to bring curated been looked over, we identify the risks, we try to spell out who the investment is for, where it might fit in that particular person's portfolio, who the investment is not for is a big part of it too. We don't want to get somebody involved in a deal that isn't really right for them. So backing up, I think that's where we kind of really had an aha moment is we could help GPs and we could help LPs and we could also allocate our money more efficiently and everything kind of came together from there.

Joe Cornwell (09:18.174)
Okay, so if I'm understanding you correctly, your fund is raising money from other passive investors. You are then helping these other investors pull money with you or them and your company, and you guys are vetting deals out here by real estate. Is there any other type of investment or is it just real estate?

Paul Shannon (09:40.435)
We're open-minded to other types of investments like I've done private equity businesses, I've done ATMs, but no not at this point we're focused solely on real estate but also moving within the capital stack whether it's common equity, preff, even debt we've done debt funds thus far so.

Joe Cornwell (09:55.786)
Okay, gotcha. And so you're helping connect this group of investors with curated deals, as you mentioned, that you vetted. And I'm assuming you get management fees for operating this fund. That's how your company makes money.

Paul Shannon (10:10.471)
We take a 2% due diligence fee on the front end to cover our overhead, but then we don't get really paid until the investor gets performance. And if we're passing along better terms, just like a syndication model, we have hurdles and we have a promote within our structure. So there's a waterfall, but our investors do well before we make any money after the due diligence fee.

Joe Cornwell (10:31.198)
Okay. And then how has your company been able to, as you mentioned, sidestep some of these deals that we all hear about in the multifamily space and other types of real estate that have gone south or are going south. And, you know, as you mentioned, The next 12 to 18 months don't really have a good trajectory for an outcome. So how have you been able to avoid those types of deals?

Paul Shannon (10:55.923)
Yeah, I mean, we're a new fund, Joe. So we just started in 2023. So the fund hasn't had to necessarily sidestep too much at this point. But from a personal standpoint, you know, my active portfolio, my personal LP portfolio, I've sidestepped those issues. And really it's just from a fundamental standpoint, I don't like floating rate bridge debt, I don't like the idea of, you know, moving target when it comes to a ballooning payment that's going to erode my, my net operating income. So that's been something I've pretty much stayed away from I've done a couple LP deals, one of which that's pause distributions, that was floating rate agency debt, but with a very experienced operator who's been through multiple cycles who has rate caps.

It's not like a bridge debt type product that has debt yield requirements that need to be met along the way and faces a much shorter maturity risk type situation. So that's one thing. And then if you look at the underwriting, when it came to multifamily in particular, you just saw this rent growth that was baked in for years years out that just didn't seem to be realistic in my eyes. You had a ton of money that got pumped into the system during the COVID crisis that obviously created asset price inflation. There was a real boon in rent growth in 2021, but to think that was sustainable was crazy.

And to think that 5% will become the new norm, 30% growth in some markets to me just didn't meet the historical norms. So What goes up must come down and it's as simple as that. There's really no science behind that. It's more of a, hey, I've seen 2008 happen, I've seen 2001 happen, been there done that and the best way to stay in the game is to stay out of trouble. So you could swing for the fences and get a few massive hits and that's fun. But you could also get stripped pretty quickly if you're running out there naked.

So, I felt like defense wins championships and the best play is to just try to go for singles and doubles and just get on base and play small balls. So that's what we did.

Joe Cornwell (12:53.806)
Okay, so when you're underwriting for your fund or personally, what specifically are you looking for in the deals and the operators? Run us through just some of the kind of tips that you follow.

Paul Shannon (13:06.687)
Sure. So at the operator level, we'd like to see folks that have been in the business for a long time, that have been through some ups and downs, been through some market cycles, and frankly have gotten burned a few times. We wanna hear about those stories. How do they communicate bad news? Some subjective things that aren't necessarily gonna be found on a spreadsheet. From there, if you drill down to the deal level, this is where it becomes a matter of what type of asset class are we dealing with.

Do we understand the market locally where the asset is located. First we need to get a handle on that. But you know really one of the fundamentals we're looking for is does this deal have solid yield on cost right? We've had market cap rates expand significantly across asset classes really over the last call at 12 to 18 months. We want insurance on our principles. We want to know if we're getting involved in a value-add deal.

When I go I don't really care what the cap rate is, you know, the going in basis. I do want to know what the market cap rate is. And then when the project is stabilized, once the value add plan has been executed, what's the yield on that asset versus the total project cost at that point? If it's comfortably above the market cap rate, that's great. If we sold it today, we would get a profit likely. And if the market cap rate were to increase as it has been, you know, it's not going to start to erode our principle or eat in too much to our profits. So we want that margin of safety cost is big for us.

And really, we're looking for strong risk-adjusted returns. And that's sort of a cliche to say that. Everybody is. We're trying to find asymmetric imbalances in return profiles. So risk and returns typically rise in tandem. We would like to see deals where the returns rise, but the risks stay the same, all else things being equal. They're actually decreased. And one of the best ways that we found to do that last year and going into this year is through debt is by moving down the capital stack because a lot of lenders have disappeared from the space, which has constrained supply, so to speak, but there's still a lot of demand out there from borrowers, especially ones that have time-sensitive issues that they're dealing with, have special situations that need bridge that is no longer there as the CLO markets dried up.

They need short-term funds to get them through to some sort of permanent financing or you know, other situations that might come up. So if we can have collateral in the underlying real estate, have low loaned values on the underwritten deal, have generating equity like returns today, you can command a higher interest rate on these loans with lower supply and higher demand, you've got pricing power.

We feel like that's a great space to be right now. But what's nice about them also is that you can redeem your position. A lot of them have like one-year lock-up periods, but after that lock-up period you can get your capital out whenever you request it on a best-faith effort, usually on a quarterly basis, sometimes even a monthly basis. 

So it allows you semi liquidity, if you will, to rotate into more aggressive positions as the market sort of rolls out and you kind of see the landscape a little bit more. So we've really liked those and I think in 2024 we'll probably be more focused on equity deals. I think we're going to see you know some of the distress that's been talked about over the last year or so come into fruition so there could be some opportunities there with distressed assets but I think also just in general the bid and the ask have been really out of line across the board in all asset classes where the sellers have sort of wanted to and unless they're forced sellers, they're just gonna hold. 

And then you got buyers who realize what's going on in the marketplace or underwriting more conservatively with less leverage, with fixed rate debt. They can't pay as much as they used to because their debt service coverage restrained. And they're hanging out over here. So at some point, we're gonna have a meeting of those two parties and we're gonna start to see transaction volume pick up and we wanna be there with our finger on the pulse when it does.

Joe Cornwell (17:02.686)
Yeah. And my follow up question to that was asking about your expectations for 2024 and what type of investment you're looking at. I know you just touched on that. We have talked a lot on this show and I've heard in other real estate circles where there are rumors or expectations that there's going to be some big swath of inventory hitting the market with distressed sellers, potentially, you know, particularly in the multifamily space. I mean, do you think that is going to be as significant as some people have indicated? And I guess the kind of fundamental piece of the question is, is that actually going to create enough inventory to really satisfy the demand or have a big impact on overall pricing coming down in multifamily?

Paul Shannon (17:51.711)
That's a great question and I hate to get too, you know, in the weeds on a crystal ball type scenario. Obviously, as you've probably seen in the statistics, the amount of debt maturities and the loans coming due over the next couple of years are record breaking on a year by year basis. So, and a lot of those loans are, you know, they were originally underwritten at a very low interest rate, NOI didn't keep pace with pro forma.

And now, you know, operators are in a situation where cap rates have expanded, the income the property produces is lower than expected and the asset's not worth as much. So when they go to get that takeout loan, it's gonna be really difficult based on what they paid to keep their equity in line and potentially there could be worse scenarios. So do I think that's going to happen? Yeah, I think it's gonna be fairly prevalent. Do I think that that's gonna hit the retail LP investor and have them have a lot of opportunities for that type of deal, those types of deals? Probably not.

There's the oak trees of the world, Howard Marks, and huge private equity firms that have had distressed funds that have been raising capital for a year plus now that are ready to kind of seize some of these larger assets. So on the bigger stuff, the A-class and the core locations and great markets, that's going to be really difficult. I think a lot of those transactions are going to happen behind closed doors. They're going to happen in back alleys before they hit the market.

But I think if you're really focused on your local market as an active investor, you might find that if you stay close to your network and kind of keep your ear to the grindstone, you might find opportunities that are able to be bought at a pretty good basis where somebody's like, hey, look, I just want to get out of this deal now. I don't want to have to go through phase three of this value add. It's time to just kind of wash our hands and get this capital working more efficiently somewhere else. So I think there'll be more of those types of opportunities as far as what we'll see at the middle market syndicator level. But do I think there'll be distress in the news? Absolutely.

I think today's headlines are, let's call it six months from now, you'll see is really yesterday's news. These are deals that were done three years ago that are now going bad. It's not what's happening today. So I would encourage LPs to kind of stay in the market, stay in the game. Don't get spooked by what you hear in the newspaper and feel like this is what's going on today. I can't invest my money. This is what already happened. So there could be really good deals that are bought today at a good basis that have solid fundamentals.

And frankly, the way that as high of interest rates are today, as high as interest rates are today, operators have to underwrite to a longer hold period. So we're gonna be able to kind of see the cycle progress and while you're holding an asset, by the time five, seven years comes and that debt is due on permanent, that a lot of this stuff will be kind of wiped away and we'll be getting started on the next cycle. So you make your money when you buy and you gotta find good operators, but if you can get into solid deals at a decent basis, I think those deals will do pretty well, expectations too.

I mean The 25% IRR plus type deals are sort of gone by the wayside. If you see that stuff on a pro forma OM as a limited partner you should probably run the other way. There's got to be a red flag in there as far as the underwriting goes and what's been put in as inputs to derive at those outputs. So you know really conservatively underwritten five to seven year hold that has a 14 IRR with a 6% cash on cash that has a really solid story behind it. Maybe the operator has an unfair advantage in their market, and they can articulate why they got the deal at the basis they did and what the business plan is and they've got a track record of executing these types of deals. 

Those are the kind of things that we want to get involved in. You know, I hate to ramble, but I just feel like a lot of LPs get really caught up with the shiny numbers they see on an OM, and they don't mean anything. They really don't. They're all just crystal ball projections. So you really have to understand the inputs and what goes into making those numbers happen versus just saying, oh, a 19 IRR projected is better than a 14. Probably not. So.

Joe Cornwell (21:54.078)
Yeah, no, I mean, and yeah, you covered a lot of my follow up questions there and I appreciate that insight. And I agree with you. I think that the last 10 years, you know, prior to, let's say, you know, let's say 2012 to 2022 was an incredible bull run in the real estate market, especially multifamily. And It is difficult to change the expectation of investors who had been investing during that time, because as you mentioned, you know, a lot of market factors, a lot of tailwinds that were just fluffing up the market and creating what is outside of the norm historically, but that became the new norm and that became the new expectation.

I know personally speaking, even on my deals, on the smaller side when I was a new investor, I was looking at a minimum of 20% cash on cash returns and I thought that was normal. The first few deals I did and it was like oh, it's only 20%. Well, you know, okay, I guess I'll do it. You know, that was kind of the, the feeling you had. um, especially doing the bird investing, which was my background as well. Obviously those, you know, you're hoping to get all your capital out and have an infinite return longterm. So yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think that 2024 is going to be the year of, you know, managing expectations, coming back in both sides, buyers and sellers, the transactional sides, having, um, real realistic expectations, meeting of the minds as you mentioned, and then hopefully that'll allow increased volume of transactions that we didn't see last year.

Paul Shannon (23:29.723)
Yeah, I would agree. And I think that where that meeting happens is where risk is adequately priced. And what I mean by that is that you have to be compensated whether you're a, you know, JV investor doing a deal with a couple friends or you're an LP and you're getting involved in a syndication where your money is going to be tied up for five years. You need to be compensated for the risk you're taking. And when there's alternatives out there that offer even lower returns but very little risk, it really competes for the available capital that's out there in the marketplace.

As LP start to understand that and adjust expectations down, this is sort of the maturation of the syndication model, right? Just like Bitcoin, for example, which I'm certainly no expert in, you've got this massive volatility where it spikes up, goes up by thousands of percentage points, and then takes the same dive down. And now you're starting to see it's less volatile. And I think that we're going to see that with syndications as well, where return projections are just a little bit more dialed in, a little bit more realistic long term that are still better than what you get in public markets or just investing in the stock market, but they're adequately priced for the risk you're taking essentially.

Joe Cornwell (24:44.526)
Hmm. Yeah, no, makes sense. And I think that's, that's good advice for, for anyone to follow who's potentially looking to invest in other people's deals. All right, let's transition to the best ever lightning round. Are you ready?

Paul Shannon (24:59.391)
Absolutely, let's do it.

Joe Cornwell (25:00.854)
What is your best ever book recommendation?

Paul Shannon (25:06.271)
Can I give two? All right. Well, I just read for the second time Morgan Housel's book, The Psychology of Money, and I think it's fantastic. It's really, you know, high level as far as the emotions that are involved in investing and how they should more or less be eliminated and you should look at things more objectively. So I really like that book. And then probably my favorite book is The Creature from Jekyll Island by Edward Griffin. And that's a history of the Federal Reserve. And I feel like, you know, you can look at all the headlines today and they're useful to know where things are, you know, look at the charts, look at the data.

But really if you study financial history, you notice that there's patterns and that a lot of stuff has happened a little bit of a different story line, but history kind of repeats itself. So that book is really enlightening and the power the Federal Reserve has over asset prices is astounding. And I think that truly, even if you're the best operator out there in this business, the majority of the returns of success you have are at the whim of the market, right?

There's a lot you can do to kind of control your risks and set yourself up for success. You can certainly do a lot wrong that will lead to failure. But you have to have the market participating and helping you along the way and giving you tailwinds. That's where the majority of the success and the big windfalls have happened. So you study that book, you can kind of identify when those time periods are and when it's best to take a shot or when it's best to kind of sit back a little bit.

Joe Cornwell (26:33.95)
Yeah, it is that I recommend that book also. It was definitely eye opening for me and taught me just how much control the central banks have over, you know, all the all the kind of major economies in the world. Obviously, you know that book was focused on the US economy, but it's, yeah, it's scary. But it's also a good read for anyone who wants to understand more about how our economy and our currency actually works.

Paul Shannon (27:00.967)
Yeah, it could be a really boring topic and very dry, but I feel like the author does a good job of keeping it relevant and keeping you reading it.

Joe Cornwell (27:07.422)
Yeah, definitely. And give me a best-sever way you like to get back.

Paul Shannon (27:13.663)
Give back. Within the real estate community, I really enjoy talking to new investors, because I was one at one point myself. People that are maybe looking for a different income stream or maybe looking to transition out of their W2 work. There's a couple of people that I've been talking to for years that are in that position that are slowly making their way and kind of developing their mindset to be able to take that leap. So I really like doing that and networking with people that are at all stages of kind of the develop in real estate. We also from a personal standpoint I like to you know raise money for st. Jude's Children's Hospital I think it's a fantastic organization and you know anytime we can contribute there we do.

Joe Cornwell (27:57.254)
And give me a mistake you made on one of your deals and the lesson you learned from it.

Paul Shannon (28:03.771)
I mean mistakes are how you grow, right? When you fail you just have to get back up off the mat. So, you know, I've pretty much when it comes to rehabbing properties made every mistake in the book. But the one that kind of stands out, it's usually like your first one because you really don't know what you're doing and how to get out of it. But when you do you look back and you realize all the things you did wrong. So, hired a general contractor at one point, was paying him on an hourly basis, which was a mistake there instead of bidding it out and getting a guaranteed max contract. This guy was under skilled, let's call it.

And enjoyed sort of using the property as a party palace too. So had some friends over drinking beers late at night, got the cops called. Needless to say, had to fire them and ended up doing a lot of the handyman work myself and learning a lot that way. But also how to kind of structure contracts better and you get what you pay for when it comes to comes to contractors in a lot of cases. So I've been really careful about who I select. Quick to let somebody go now and.

I find somebody good, treat them well, and pay them on time. So that was probably the biggest learning lesson out of that.

Joe Cornwell (29:16.498)
Yeah, it's great advice. And where can the listeners connect with you and learn more about your business?

Paul Shannon (29:22.783)
Well, first off, I'll plug to the Best Ever Conference. I'll be a speaker there. I don't know when this releases, but hopefully before that time period. Passive Investing Live with the Leftfield Investors is the Tuesday before the actual conference starts, and that's just gonna be a big room full of limited partners, so I'm looking forward to connecting with everybody there. There's still tickets available for that. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. And then if you wanna learn more about our fund, investwisecollective.com.

Joe Cornwell (29:51.946)
Yeah, no doubt. Shout out to Best Ever Conference 2024, and I will be there as well. So look forward to meeting you there. You can still get tickets on best Paul, we really appreciate your time today. Listeners, if you got value from today's show, make sure you leave us a five star review on the app of your choice. Make sure you're following us on social media. And Paul, thank you again for joining us.

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