Vikram Brar and Princi Gill were led to multifamily investing because they knew it was the road to financial freedom. Since then they’ve both quit their jobs and focus fully on Waahe Capital. Today, Vikram and Princi are talking about how they divide business roles, their number-one piece of advice for vertically integrating, and how they create the blueprint for their next buyer to be successful.
Vikram Brar & Princi Gill Real Estate Background:
- Vikram and Princi are co-founders of Waahe Capital
- Vikram leads acquisitions, investor relationships, and operations, while Princi focuses on true value creation through modern design, strategic sourcing, and cost-effective renovations
- Their portfolio consists of over 700 units and over $100M in assets under the management, and they just acquired eighth multifamily property
- As a vertically-integrated organization, they are very actively involved with focuses including multifamily asset acquisition, property management (in-house), redevelopment (including in-house construction & design teams), and asset management
- Based in San Francisco, CA
- Say hi to them at: WaaheCapital.com
- Best Ever Book: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
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Ash Patel: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Ash Patel, and I’m with today’s guests, Vikram Brar and Princi Gill. They are joining us from San Francisco, California. Vikram and Princi are co-founders of Waahe Capital. Their portfolio consists of 517 units and over $50 million of assets under management. Vikram and Princi have also vertically integrated their organization to include multifamily acquisition, in-house management, and asset development. Vikram and Princi, how are you guys today?
Vikram Brar: Great. How are you doing? Thank you for having us on the show.
Ash Patel: Very well. Thank you for joining us. Before we get started, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?
Vikram Brar: Sure. And just before we start, since we last spoke, a few things have changed. We have currently over 700 units, and our portfolio size is over $100 million. So things are progressing well, as you can see. So overall, a little bit of background—I was born and brought up in India. My father was in the army, so we were raised in a great disciplined household where we knew we had to do our chores and get our work… And it was just ingrained in us, right? You’ve just got to do it. So we can say a lot of motivation was built-in.
So from there, I came to US for my master’s. I’m an industrial engineer. And then I worked in the automotive sector. Did a stint in Victory at that time, Victory Management Consulting Firms, and then after that, I spent about 12 years in the startup world, in the Silicon Valley. Princi actually brought me to Silicon Valley. Then we pivoted into multifamily a few years back, in 2017, and then enrolled into it last year, April, trying to do my full-time job and run multifamily at the same time, a vertically integrated business. As you can see, it was pretty taxing. However, Princi helped quite a bit along the way.
Princi Gill: Yeah, I still remember the day when I had to quit my job at the Valley. I was in a meeting, I was getting enrolled into a project where we had to travel again to Korea and things, and I called Vikram. He was supposed to quit, and he went for a lunch with his boss, and his boss didn’t let him quit. And then he calls me, he’s like, “You’ve got to do it”. I’m like, “Okay…” And then I went to my lead and told her what it was and what we were passionate about, and she was very supportive. And she said, “If things don’t work out, come back”, and I said, “I’ll make sure they work out for us”.
That was when it all started full-fledged for us, from becoming, as everybody starts, as a passive investor, to becoming a full-time vertically integrated company. We knew what company, what we were building, and what it took to make sure that it was successful for our investors, for our employees, and for us.
Ash Patel: Princi, I love what you said. “I remember the day that I had to quit.” It wasn’t an option. You had to quit.
Princi Gill: I had to quit, yes.
Ash Patel: How many years prior were you guys investing in real estate?
Princi Gill: Well, like everybody else, we started with single-family back in 2013, and we did our math, and very soon we realized that it was a long shot for us to where we wanted to be when it comes to our financial freedom. And from there, Vikram found multifamily. That’s also a story… Things have led us here through various things that have happened to us for good. So we went through the woods, right?
Vikram Brar: Yeah.
Princi Gill: And then we were like, “This is not happening, Vikram.” Vikram was like, “I need a clearer mind.” And then, we went to Big Sur, and that’s where he found BiggerPockets, and he found multifamily, and he informed me about it, and then, yeah.
Vikram Brar: And then we did the math, we’re like, “Hey, this is finally making sense. This is what people keep talking about, that real estate is the vehicle for wealth generation”, and I’m like, “Single-family doesn’t seem like it, although there are different strategies that we know now”. However, at that time, we were like, “Okay, buying this one at a time is very difficult to scale, versus multifamily”.
Ash Patel: Vikram, we covered a lot of your rise in the previous interview which wasn’t that long ago, but I want to focus on how you went from $50 million to $100 million in just a very short time.
Vikram Brar: Since 2017, we’ve been focused in the Tucson market; so 500 off units were over in Tucson market. And then last year, we started to look. I believe, we might have touched upon it last time. Phoenix was very close to us. Phoenix has great growth. We have figured out the business. We have established it. We know exactly what we need to do, and it’s time for the new market.
And Phoenix for us was a very, very close MSA. It’s just like a sister city, where we can run operations from essentially a lot from our Tucson warehouse. So we went in, we looked at the properties… Very competitive in Phoenix. And we started focusing this year, March, and in May, we had our first property under contract in Mesa. So with that deal — that was our largest deal so far, and essentially, that is what took us over that 100 million mark, and of course, our current portfolios which we had bought. And then, there was another property that we had bought last year, which was really purchased at 2017 prices in 2020. And that was a relationship buy. Once we got their project plans implemented, that really boosted up that property as well. It was 176 units. So on a larger property, when you can increase that NOI by that much, it’s a big pop. So those are the two biggest drivers, I would say, in the recent history, that has led to a portfolio size increasing by that much.
Ash Patel: Can we deep dive into the Phoenix numbers?
Vikram Brar: Sure, absolutely.
Ash Patel: How many units was that?
Vikram Brar: It was 196 units.
Ash Patel: And what was the purchase price?
Vikram Brar: It was $39 million, with a $3 million renovation budget.
Ash Patel: And how much money did you raise on that?
Vikram Brar: It’s a little under $10 million.
Ash Patel: And what type of financing was applied to this?
Vikram Brar: We did a bridge debt, a 311. We were introduced [unintelligible [00:06:06].29] to our broker, which we have worked with since 2019, essentially, and it was a great relationship, yeah.
Ash Patel: Can you explain that bridge debt in detail?
Vikram Brar: Sure. So it was an 80% LTV, in the sense they came in and they gave us 80% upfront for the purchase price, and then the $3.4 million is in the renovation budget, which covers the exterior and interior renovation. So we got a floating rate at which we had to buy a rate cap for—which means, like, it can only go up so much. And this is something that we hedged against the future, which everybody’s talking about, the interest rates rising. And so we have kind of protected ourselves with the rate cap purchase, and this gets us into a three-year loan term, which is interest-only. And then after that, we have the option to extend for one year plus one year, as long as we are meeting a specific coverage ratio calculation.
Ash Patel: And do you have to pay for that extension?
Vikram Brar: There’s a small point, it’s a 0.5, but I think they take it on the backend.
Ash Patel: Okay.
Vikram Brar: Yeah. So we got a very good deal on that particular loan.
Ash Patel: And what is the value-added proposition on this property?
Vikram Brar: So this property has been in the same ownership, in one of the largest ownerships in Phoenix, and I think they had enough funds. So they had time for exit, they had done—their project plan was complete. They had gotten their investors more than what they had promised, and I think from that perspective, they exited out when the loan was up.
So for us, we took an asset that was lightly upgraded. However, as Wahee Capital, we invest in really heavier remodels. We do very eco-friendly upgrades. We do brand new kitchen cabinets, quartz countertops, 100% waterproof flooring, low VOC paints. So for us, there is a market for that premium product. And already, what we saw is when we came into the market – the Phoenix market has amazing population growth, it has amazing job growth. I think it has the highest job growth until 2029. And what we are seeing is the rents are growing at a much faster clip. What we had underwritten for a renovated product, partially and fully – we are able to get those up to our processes that we have honed over the years in the Tucson market. And essentially, that’s value-added properties, exterior renovation and interior.
Ash Patel: I want to circle back to that 311. The three years is interest-only. Are the additional two years interest-only as well?
Vikram Brar: Correct.
Ash Patel: And is your whole period five years or less?
Vikram Brar: They’ll be simulated for both three years and five years, yes.
Ash Patel: But you don’t plan on holding it past five years?
Vikram Brar: Not at this moment. Given the current economic conditions, no.
Ash Patel: Yeah. If this was not an interest-only loan, would it have made sense in terms of returns?
Vikram Brar: It always makes sense on what’s happening in the market. There are some factors; we are all doing pro forma, we are all doing forecasts. However, the market does what the market does, right? There’s a forecast and then there’s what is actually happening. So this is something that we continue to evaluate on our properties. The initial properties that we’re discussing – and Princi brings in a lot of that accounting rigor to that whole thing. She looks at it and says, “Okay, what are we looking at? What are the returns we’re looking at? What are we looking at from an investor perspective? Are we able to give them the velocity of the return and go invest in another deal?”. So these things are constantly being evaluated. We had a property that we were not planning to sell. That was earlier on in our portfolio. However, 2020 changed things [unintelligible [00:10:46].23] and maybe Princi can speak a little bit more about it.
Princi Gill: Which one are we talking about? The brands?
Vikram Brar: Yeah.
Princi Gill: Yeah, so what we do as a company is, because we do property management in-house, we have so many knobs and buttons that we can turn on, on a monthly basis. So we are very, very close to our accounting. We look at our books, and we look at our NOIs on a monthly basis, like everybody else should do. And then based on those, we make our decisions… Three months, what is it that we are doing? Six months, what is it that we are doing? For one of our properties – yes, it still has that $20,000, $30,000 of income left on the table, but at the same time, looking at the market condition, looking at from where we started to where we have already bought it on, we feel it’s the right time to sell, because we want to leave something on the table for the next buyer as well. At the same time, it is also in that… The year of the asset is something that we are also looking to exit, right? As we are growing as a company, we are looking at a portfolio and looking at the 1960’s assets, and we feel we have done enough renovation on that community, and it’s time for us to go for a sale in the market with that.
Ash Patel: Princi, what is your role with the company?
Princi Gill: The way me and Vikram work is every year we define our roles, because we want to make sure that we have very clear lines of what he’s doing versus what I’m doing. So last year, I was handling a lot on the construction side, design and all of that stuff, which – the design element I still keep it to myself, but since mid-last year to this year, I’ve been heavily involved in the property management side of business and accounting. So that’s what I do, it’s the day-to-day operations, versus Vikram is involved in acquisitions, and Vikram is involved in construction management.
Ash Patel: And Vikram, did you come to a point where you had to quit your job as well, or are you still working?
Vikram Brar: Yeah. No, no, I had to quit my job when Princi had to quit, back in 2019. However, I was working at a startup, as I mentioned. So startups are like — they’re dependent on, you know, the core groups that’s there. So you know, I had a heart-to-heart with my CEO. There were certain things that we wanted to get done and accomplish, and we had a very open conversation. He said, “Hey, if you can get me here, I understand what you’re trying to do, and I support what you’re trying to do, and I would be as flexible as it needs to be, as long as you’re flexible”, and that was something that we mutually agreed on. And the beauty of it was I was able to accomplish and finish what I’d started with the startup and get it done for my essentially boss and the owner of the company and the founder, versus also dedicate a certain time to our business. So I was able to manage both at the same time.
And in 2020, every six months we will have this discussion, and that kept going on, and then in 2020 when COVID hit, we were like, “I think this is a clean-cut point”, when him and I discussed. He said, “Yeah, it sounds like a good plan”. I said, “I need to double down on business”. Anyways, I needed to be in Tucson, because last year when things were going south, Princi and I recognized — we had the sensory acuity to see, this is an unforeseen event in our lives. We need to be where our team is. We need to be right there with the properties. And then we went in, and we ended up staying there for 11 months until things had—everything had stabilized, and that’s when we came back to the barrier.
Ash Patel: That’s a great philosophy. Princi, I want to go back to something you said, “You want to leave something for the next buyer.” I’ve never heard that, but I think it’s a great strategy. What is it that you do? You don’t want to fully renovate the property and make it pristine. You want to leave some low-hanging fruit for the next buyer?
Princi Gill: Easy, low-hanging fruit, so that they don’t fail, right? They don’t fail and all the hard work that we had put in. At the end of the day, all of us should not forget, it’s a community there. These are homes to other people, right? These are assets that we want them to see the light for the next 30, 40, 50 years. So yes, that’s what I mean.
So what we look at is – we do try to address as many challenging stuff as we can, because we know we have construction in-house, so we have that power to do it. So the low-hanging fruits are—it’s already working, right? We have these unit floor plans that we know that if three more of these are going to come, the next owners or the next buyers will be able to do a similar kind of renovations, and also, so that they can get the similar kind of rents. So we already prove our model. We make sure that we have accomplished those rent increases and everything else, and then we’ll give it to the next owner.
Vikram Brar: And if I could just add on, to stack on top of that – it’s a financial decision at the end of the day as well. Yes, we want to make sure we’re leaving something on the table for the next person to take it to the first, but also, we look at it financially, because what we have with a vertically integrated company being a construction in-house, we’re able to do the maximum NOI pop in the first 18-24 months, and after that, yes, you can go in and get that last, whatever remaining percentages, but now you’re looking at time as well. And time is money, right? Whereas the other person can pick it up, and they can accelerate it for their investors, whereas we have already accelerated in those 18 months for our investors, and we’ve already achieved or gone above and beyond whatever returns we had forecasted. So there’s both sides to it. We look at it from both perspectives.
Ash Patel: Yeah, I absolutely love that strategy. You’ve basically created the blueprint for the next buyer to be successful—
Princi Gill: Correct.
Ash Patel: —and it’s fantastic. If you were to give advice to somebody earlier in their investing career – let’s assume they’ve got 50 or 100 units under their belt, and they want to look at vertically integrating. How would you walk them through that process?
Vikram Brar: I’ll take a lead on this, and I’ll give my sense, and I’m sure Princi has her perspective. So in my perspective, first, be sure you want to do this. It’s a very consuming business. It’s not for the light-hearted. It’s like any operations. So be sure you’re committed to it. You’re not just interested, you’re actually committed to that process. And then dive in.
And once you dive in, don’t be afraid of the hard work. There’s lot of hard work. Initially, you will be just pushing this big boulder up the mountain, and you won’t see any movement, but you keep pushing, keep pushing, pushing, and you’ll have the breakthrough, and then it’s all downhill from there, after you reach that point. So be committed, be ready, make sure that you’re able to handle multiple things that are thrown at your plate and the same time… And I’m sure Princi can add more.
Princi Gill: Yeah, there’s no shortcut to hard work, basically. You have to be in the details. The money is made and lost in details. So the more you are in details, the better it is for you and your company and your teams. So at the end of the day, if you are vertically integrated, you are controlling your own destiny, right? So you’re not dependent on this third party to do a certain thing, so that it can give you the result that you’re looking for. But that also comes with a lot of hard work, which I’m sure most of the listeners are already doing.
Ash Patel: So you’re competing against people that have had construction companies for years. How do you go from efficiently running a team of carpenters and tradespeople?
Vikram Brar: So yeah…
Princi Gill: It’s challenging, to say the least, right?
Vikram Brar: Anytime there’s active management, it’s all challenging. And to add a little bit of color, which I didn’t have earlier in the introduction, was I’ve been in a manufacturing background ever since I graduated. So it’s been more than 20 years. So I’ve been running teams, whether it was automotive, whether it was medical devices, or whether it was doing supply chain strategy for companies who are Fortune 500 companies when I was working for their management consulting firms.
So for us, we have breathed this, lived this… And growing up, my father, once he retired from the army, he had set up a manufacturing unit back in India… So those were my formative years [unintelligible [00:20:40].16] when I was in high school… So essentially, I had seen that stuff. I was not involved, it was not that I was going there or something, but I saw it from the sidelines. So all these things go into your brain, and the brain is amazing, it stores all this stuff. So when you’re going and doing, you’re starting with your life, all these little things come back to you. They’re in the back of your brain.
So for us, I’d never looked at construction or a vertically integrated company being any different than manufacturing. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and we just got in, we added processes… Actually, I’m implementing a lot of Lean Six Sigma principles that we have done in the manufacturing industry. Now we are putting those into construction. Because as you might know, since 1945, manufacturing productivity has increased eight times, versus construction has actually gone down 1% in the last decade, since 2000. And a lot of it is, if you look, study deep enough, in 2018, Princi and I really went in and doubled down, and for two months, we isolated ourselves, and all we did was deep dive into data; what’s happening in the market, what’s happening in construction… And what we found is – the World Economic Forum has a special panel dedicated to this. Boston Consulting… There’s a lot of senior management consulting firms there, actually doing a strategy and work and in-depth data research into the construction management, because this is a 21st-century challenge. It is, how do we build it in a cheaper method and faster, and that makes sense, and it’s eco-friendly. So we dived into this, and we found out that we are on a good path, a, so we want to continue on, and B, the way to do it is just do it like we’re doing in manufacturing.
We sourced our materials directly from overseas, whether it was Far East, whether it was India, and whether it was US. We buy containers of materials. We have our own warehouse. We stock them. We have a defined renovation process. It’s a standardized process. It doesn’t matter whether I’m going to one property or the second or the third. There are 13 steps in our process, and that’s exactly what we’ll go through.
So if we have broken it down – again, it goes back to the details that we were talking about. And for us, I believe it gives us a much better edge than a third party firm, which would be outsourcing a lot of these, where they don’t have control over their resources.
Ash Patel: And with the labor market being so tight, and construction personnel being difficult to find, how do you retain your construction staff?
Vikram Brar: Again, in our corporate world, we give really good benefits. We treat our employees really well. We have a strong belief in saying that once our construction guys — the lowest guy on the chain, on the totem pole, if they are successful, we are going to be successful. It doesn’t go the other way around. So if you’re truly vested in the interest and vested in the best interest of your people, I think they choose to stay. And that’s what we saw, even in 2012.
Ash Patel: Back to the Phoenix deal, what cap rate did you purchase that at?
Vikram Brar: It was a 3.78, and at that time, it was like, “Wow, it’s low.” And right now, I think there’s a deal under contract for under two cap. And honestly, cap rates are very funny; I don’t think we should take them for value-add assets. Cap rate is something for a stabilized asset, once it has reached stability. If we know what we are doing, where are we going to take it and we have done it, we have a playbook that just works, and we have a proven model, then it doesn’t matter. You can buy it at a negative cap rate. Who cares? It depends where you’re going to take it.
Ash Patel: Yeah. And Princi what are the returns for your investors going to look like?
Princi Gill: Oh, it’s already looking really, really good. So what happened with this deal is when we went in, the first month we were able to achieve our underwritten rents without the renovations. We were able to achieve the renovated units underwritten rents. So yeah, based on—
Vikram Brar: Sorry, if I may interrupt. .. I think what Ash is probably wondering is – we always underwrite, we have our strict investing criteria. So we are looking for deals very specifically that can essentially — it’s a 2x multiplier of your equity over a five year period underwritten [unintelligible [00:24:19].00] a little bit less. And then our IRRs are between 17 and above, right? 17%, 18%, 19%.
So essentially, we get about 20% annualized return. So when we’re evaluating our deals, we have stuck to this formula. It was very difficult in the second half, later half of 2020 to see this, and we were like, “Okay, we are going to stick to it.” And there’s a lot to be said about sticking to your principles and sticking to your metrics. It takes a lot of discipline, but we definitely stick to them, yeah.
Ash Patel: So I want to backup… You purchased this property, and without making renovations, you were able to raise rents to what the after renovation prices would have been.
Vikram Brar: Underwritten.
Ash Patel: Underwritten.
Vikram Brar: We don’t get overzealous in our future rent growth. I want to make sure that today if we go in, we are able to achieve that. I’m sorry, I’m speaking on Princi’s behalf, because this is essentially my [unintelligible [00:25:06].01] so, I just want to make sure I’m addressing it from the person who’s responsible.
So we had already been a little conservative in our rent growth numbers that we had projected, because we solely believe in – the profits are made the day you buy the property, not the day you sell it. And so, if we are able to achieve those numbers, it’s a home run day one. And as early on as we are in our process – we are shy of 1000 units – we want to make sure every single project is a home run And the way to do it is be conservative, as conservative as you can be. Buy the property you know; the day when you take over, you’re going to get the rents [unintelligible [00:25:39].10]
Princi Gill: Yeah. And very important to put the right team and the right processes in place. When we hire someone, we don’t say, “You’re going to work for a property management company.” We say, “We are a real estate investment company firm that you’re working for.” So we tell them on a monthly basis what the strategy is for this asset. What is it that we are doing today, and where we want to be three months from now. So everybody’s on the same page from an organization perspective. And that also helps.
Vikram Brar: And we just don’t go in and raise the rents, right? It’s not that easy. If we just did that, then I’m sure there’d be a lot of pushback or there’d be a lot of vacancy, right? As soon as we took over, we scrubbed the entire property down right away. Day one, we get going. We already have vendor relations that we are talking to. That’s the beauty of being vertically integrated as well. We have teams that we can start mobilizing before the point. So we have the teams prepped up and ready for the takeover day.
The property had so much deferred maintenance… We hired extra resources. We went in and we took care of the work orders. So for the first month, obviously, we cleaned up; the pools were green or partially green, the laundry rooms were dirty. There was a lot of dog feces around the property, it looked like it hadn’t been picked up in a long time. So we did all that. So the people see what we are delivering.
We were making sure our maintenance is going in. We were taking care of workers. There was tons of deferred maintenance. And obviously after that, the renewals and the new leases – we market it right. Princi has figured out this formula. And a lot of people don’t market their product, right? If you’re not marketing right, so you might not be able to optimize the revenue that you can get for a unit. We see this quite a bit across the products that we buy.
Princi Gill: Yeah.
Ash Patel: What’s an example of properly marketing?
Vikram Brar: For example, we have internet-ready units, which are day one, they’re internet ready. For one month, it’s going to be free. You market that. Corner unit, right? It’s a corner unit, it has LVP floor. It’s allergens-free. There’s subtle nuances that you mention. It has this new fridge… Whatever the characteristics of the unit are; it is a back unit, it’s away from traffic. So there’s so many little things that go into marketing a unit. No unit should be marketed as a bulk, right? Every unit should be marketed by its individual entity, because they are essentially different. One is different than the other.
Ash Patel: Vikram and Princi, how can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?
Princi Gill: Through LinkedIn, through waahecapital.com, or you can call Vikram’s cell phone.
Vikram Brar: You can call me at 313-330-9028.
Ash Patel: Well, Vikram and Princi, thank you again for sharing your story with us, your incredible rise, and your story with the Phoenix property, doubling your assets under management. Thank you for all of the great advice you shared with us today.
Vikram Brar: Thank you for having us.
Princi Gill: Thank you so much. Yeah.
Ash Patel: Best Ever listeners, thank you for joining us, and have a best ever day.
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