April 13, 2020

JF2050: Managing and Dealing During The Coronavirus With Shannon Robnett

Shannon has 25+ years of real estate experience owning 500+ properties, experienced builder, and syndicator. His family has always been in real estate where dinner conversations consist of real estate deals. In this episode Shannon shares the ways he is approaching his investors and residents to make sure they are all taken care of and his business stays safe. 


Shannon Robnett Real Estate Background:

    • 25+ years of real estate investing experience
    • Developer, builder, and syndicator in multi-family and industrial
    • Currently owns 500+ properties
    • From Meridian, Idaho
    • Say hi to him at: www.shannonrobnett.com  



Best Ever Tweet:

“Communicate early and often” – Shannon Robnett


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’ll be speaking with Shannon Robnett. Shannon, how are doing today?

Shannon Robnett: Good, Theo. How are you?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing good, thanks for asking, and thanks for joining us. Today, we’re gonna be talking about the coronavirus, which seems like everyone is talking about today.

Shannon Robnett: That’s for sure.

Theo Hicks: So we’re gonna ask Shannon how the coronavirus is impacting his business and the things that he is implementing in order to combat it. But before we get into that, let’s go over Shannon’s background. So he has 25+ years of real estate investing experience, he’s a developer and builder of all types of real estate, as well as a syndicator; he currently owns 500+ properties, and he’s from Meridian, Idaho, and you can say hi to him at his website, which is shannonrobnett.com. So Shannon, before we start talking about the coronavirus, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Shannon Robnett: Sure, Theo. So I grew up in a real estate family, so I watched my parents do deals at the kitchen table and talk about if we sold this, we could buy that. My mom is a third-generation realtor, my son is a fifth-generation realtor, and my dad is a general contractor. So I kind of got that growing up. I didn’t really see that there was much option for me with that background. So I’ve always been about doing deals and putting things together, and we’ve just been able to continue to grow a business that meets the needs of our clients, meets the needs of our community. So with that, it’s definitely kept me busy and given me a lifetime’s worth of work.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, thanks for sharing that. As you mentioned before, you’ve started — so you’re a builder and developer. So you build all types of properties – commercial, industrial, multifamily, retail, but then you mentioned that you don’t own those. But you own 500+ properties. What are those? Are those multifamily, or are those something else?

Shannon Robnett: Currently, we just finished 180 doors. We’re in process, right now, of constructing one particular project of 191. We’ve got another project at 36, and then we’ve got two other projects that total another 200 doors that are under construction. So we develop those, we find the ground, we put the deals together. I also own industrial space. We’ve got multi-tenant industrial buildings all over the valley. But the retail business, the office business is just a little bit different business, and is just one that I’ve chosen to stay out of, and we’re seeing a decline in retail, we’re seeing a decline in shop space, and things like that. So that’s just an area that I’ve stayed away from.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and then all of the other multifamily projects you were talking about, will you then own those or manage those afterwards, or do you then sell those?

Shannon Robnett: Our goal is to build them up and then sell them, essentially to another one of our entities that is a syndication entity. I also do have a property management company, so I keep real tight control on what value my tenants are getting, making sure that we’re more concerned about the bottom line, giving the tenant the experience that they’re willing to pay for, because we all know, at the end of the day, that affects the value of the property through the cap rates. So we’re always, always managing our own.

Theo Hicks: So, for your syndication business, are you raising capital from other people to fund those deals?

Shannon Robnett: We are raising capital from other people. We’ve got a pretty good network. Obviously, we’re always willing to have other people join our projects, but we’ve been pretty good with that. Myverticalequity.com is where our capital raise is centered out of, but our investors that are on our syndications are in the mid-20s for their returns, in their IRR.

Theo Hicks: Okay, yup. So the reason why I was asking you all of those questions is I wanted to see what you were all involved in, so I can figure out what type of questions to ask with the coronavirus. But it seems like you’re involved in everything, so can we take this really in any direction. So let’s start with property management. So you said you have your own property management firm. Before we start talking about communicating with tenants, let’s talk about the operational perspective. I know a big thing right now is collecting rent. So we’re recording this on April 8th. So April 1st was the first of the month, when rent was due. So maybe walk us through how that went, what type of things you did to make sure you were able to collect the rent, what types of concessions that you guys came up with for your residents, or really just walk us through what happened.

Shannon Robnett: Okay. So when this whole thing started coming out, we sent out a memo to our people. It was about the 25th of March, and we hand-delivered it, actually put it on everybody’s door, letting them know that we were interested in understanding if they were affected by it and if they could let us know that there had been some change; maybe there was a letter from their boss or their unemployment filings or medical notice, we were willing to work with them.

So our approach was always to reach out to our tenants first, because we want to maximize that experience for them. So contacting them about this early really put us ahead of the curve, because we started hearing rumblings, we started having tenants come to us, and everybody is afraid of the unknown. They don’t really know what’s going to happen next. They don’t know how secure their job is. So just being able to come and talk with us.

Then when it progressed a little further and we started seeing states shut down and things like that, when we closed our amenities, we immediately told the tenants that in April, that we would not be collecting for the RUBS, nor would we be collecting for the cable, and the internet. So the tenants felt like they were being compensated for not having the amenities. So from there, we were able to really build a bridge with them and begin to continue the conversation. Moving forward, we had about five people come forward and most of them were interested in how this month was going to go, but how next month was going to go. So we were able to build a bit of a forbearance where we reduced the rents here, and then extended them by another year in the property, and spread out the discounted rent over that time period. So they were able to feel like we heard them, they had a choice in how that was going to go, we weren’t looking for a raise for next year, but we were able to spread out the discount of this month and next month over that period of time.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so we’ve talked about the residents side of things. What about your investors? So how did you handle communication with the investors? So these are deals where you, obviously, raise money from people, they’re used to getting their returns, they’re used to things just going as normal. From here on out, you really don’t know what’s going to happen by the end of the month, so what types of conversations, emails, phone calls have you had with them?

Shannon Robnett: Well, Theo, we used the same philosophy with our investors as our tenants, and that’s  communicate early and often. So we reached out to them with an email, letting them know that we didn’t know what was going to happen. However, we reminded them that we did have cash reserves that we could pull from, that we weren’t in trouble of not making our payments this month, nobody had issues with any of those things. And really before they ever got concerned, we took the proactive step with them and just let them know there was no reason to be concerned. And then after that, as always, we’ve really tried hard to stay in front of them, and most of our investors aren’t that concerned, because we are always communicating often.

Theo Hicks: So you sent an initial email. After that first email, how often were you sending emails? Every day, every week?

Shannon Robnett: We gave them an update on the fifth, and then we’re starting to do a weekly wrap up. Hey, here’s how many people we had come in looking for some assistance, here’s what we think to do, here’s how we’re going to handle it, here’s how that would potentially affect cash flow. So we’re going to start doing that on a weekly basis as we move on, just so that we over-communicate and don’t run into issues.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and then what about on the opposite side. We talked about deals that you already completed, that you have a property management company, have tenants, have investors. You mentioned that you’re working in a few development deals. Are those being impacted at all or are those still on schedule, everything is going smoothly?

Shannon Robnett: Well, construction is considered an essential service. So our contractors have been on site and moving forward as scheduled. It has given people a time to pause, as far as jumping into our deals, but it’s also been a funny time because we’ve seen a lot of people wanting to get out of the stock market and coming to us and saying, “I decided I want to invest with you guys now.” So we’re seeing both sides of the spectrum there, where we’ve got people coming into our deals faster than we thought, on stuff that we have shovel ready that we’re moving forward on. Some of the stuff that’s in planning that’s out six to nine months I don’t think is going to be bothered, but right now, we don’t know.

Theo Hicks: Okay. As you mentioned earlier about forbearance – are those conversations you’re having with your lenders?

Shannon Robnett: No, we’re not in a position where we need to have a forbearance conversation with our lenders. We’re just doing that with our tenants and we’re structuring it… Because everybody’s hearing that word in the media, and tenants like to get what everybody else is getting. So having them talk about, “I’ll give you half off of April and half off of May, and then we’ll add it on to June and July and spread it out over the next 12 months. And maybe that requires a lease renewal, but we’re great [unintelligible [00:10:32].28].”

Theo Hicks: Alright, and then another question. Obviously, they recently passed– it was last week, I don’t know time is like a time warp right now…

Shannon Robnett: Right. You’re running in quicksand.

Theo Hicks: I saw a funny meme – January is 31 days long, and then February is really short, it’s 28 days long, and then March is 6000 days long. Something like that.

Shannon Robnett: Right, right. Exactly.

Theo Hicks: But anyways– so they passed the CARES Act. I was wondering if you have investigated it or are taking advantage of any of the loan programs – the EIDL, the PPP loans at all?

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, we have applied for both the PPP and the EIDL loan program, and the reason that we’ve done that is because our employees were really excited when we applied for the PPP program, because they knew that there was an opportunity for additional protection for them, and it also puts us just in a stronger position on a balance sheet to have those funds available if we need them. They’re grants that can be paid back, but if you’re not applying for them, you’re definitely not going to be eligible. So having the opportunity to get the cash while it’s available is definitely, I think, prudent business.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, and then for the EIDL, that $10,000 advance is considered a grant. I don’t think you got to pay that one back, is that right?

Shannon Robnett: That’s my understanding as well.

Theo Hicks: It’s confusing, but it’s my understanding too.

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, and that’s the thing. We’ve applied for this and I’ve stayed in touch with our lenders on this. Everybody’s trying to get to the bottom of it. I know that– typical government, they say, “We’re going to do this,” and then they throw it off onto another agency that’s got to sort out how that actually gets implemented. But from the standpoint that cash flow right now or cash in hand right now is what everybody’s looking for, any opportunity to increase that and have that to work with later is definitely a great option.

Theo Hicks: Okay then the last question, I’ve been asking this to everyone who I’ve talked to this about… Where do you see your industry – let’s just call it, I guess, development – in six months or a year from now or once this is all over? Do you think it’s gonna snap back to normal or do you think there’ll be any changes, and if so, what do you think those changes will be, and then are there gonna be opportunities, just like there were after the 2008 recession that people should be aware of?

Shannon Robnett: I think that we’re going to snap back fairly quickly. The biggest difference between right now and 2008 is that there’s inventory shortages everywhere. So with the inventory shortages, I think we’re going to see it snap back pretty quickly. I don’t think that we’re going to go into an 08′ type recession, because that had a lot of product available. But I do see that there are some people that shouldn’t be in real estate, that are going to get removed fairly quickly… But those of us that have been here for a while that are about staying the course, I think you’re going to be just fine.

That’s the way it is with development. We’re always looking 12 to 24 months down the road anyway. So I see that we’re going to see some positive changes in how the lending market is going to respond to this, because I think that, like most things, lending has been getting a little bit loose and a lot of people that maybe shouldn’t be doing this are getting in the waters which is making it a little muddy.

Theo Hicks: Yeah. I think that’s a common theme that everyone thinks that this is going to, in a sense, weed out the fakers, so to speak, that shouldn’t be investing in real estate. So I guess that’s probably a plus plus, once they do leave and they’re trying to sell their properties. Those are opportunities for people to take advantage of.

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, like Warren Buffett said, “When the tide goes out, you can see who’s swimming naked,” and I think that there are going to be opportunities, but I don’t believe that they’re going to be the opportunities that we saw in ’08, ’09, because most people, if they’re not in a cash flow position right now, they’re not far from it, because they’re not dealing with the vacancy that would require a lot of discount in multifamily. Single-family is still selling very well. In most areas, there’s not enough inventory of that. So if their single-family product comes back on the market, they’ll get snapped up pretty quickly.

Theo Hicks: Alright. Well, Shannon, I really appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing your background, first of all, but also how the coronavirus is impacting your business and some of these solutions you’re putting in place. Just to summarize, from a resident-tenant perspective, you mentioned that you initially sent out a memo, hand-delivered memos – first time I heard about that – to all of your tenants asking them to let you know if they’re going to be affected financially by the coronavirus.

So you reached out to them first and early; it was a theme with communication. You mentioned that once you closed the amenities, you told residents that you would not be collecting for the RUBS or internet or cable. So they felt like they were being compensated for not having the amenities, because as everyone knows, those aren’t a monthly fee or anything. They’re just built into the rent. I thought that was a very solid approach. And then, you mentioned that people who needed help, you extended their lease by a year, and then spread their delayed payments over that timeframe. So that was your repayment strategy.

For the investors, you mentioned that you sent them an email on 5th of April that you don’t really know what’s going to happen, but here’s all the measures we have in place that makes us think we’re going to be okay. We have reserves, we’re not getting any trouble paying any expenses. So just like the tenants, you acted quickly. You mentioned that you’re also doing a weekly wrap up emails. I really like that. So just mentioning, “Hey, here’s what happened this week, here’s who needed help, here’s we’re going to do, here’s how it’s gonna impact the financials, but we were still okay.” So just trying to stay in front of them as much as possible.

You mentioned from a construction perspective — I didn’t know that construction was considered an essential service, so you’ve got your contractors are still there working. You got some people who are not interested in investing, but then you’ve got more new people coming in who want to get out of the stock market because of how poorly that’s been performing.

You mentioned that you applied for both the PPP and the EIDL loans, that your employees were excited about the PPP because of the extra protection that they’ll get, and that it’s good to just to have cash right now, because you have stronger balance sheets.

We talked about your post COVID predictions, that you don’t think it’s gonna be as bad as 2008 because the fact that there are inventory shortages right now, and that you think that once it’s all over, people who shouldn’t be in real estate will have been kicked out, and that there’s gonna be positive changes in lending and lending requirements because it’s been a little loose, which just allowed these people to come in… And again, that you don’t think it’s going to be like 2008 because vacancy was much lower then and inventory was much higher then. So I think that covers everything we’ve talked about.

Shannon Robnett: That’s it.

Theo Hicks: Again, really appreciate you coming on the show and being willing to talk about this stuff.

Shannon Robnett: Thank you, Theo.

Theo Hicks: I’m glad to hear that you’re doing okay. I’m glad to hear that you’re safe. Stay safe. Everyone listening, stay safe. Have a best ever day and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Shannon Robnett: Thanks, Theo.

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