In March of 2020, Jeromie and Anne Marie Sheldon closed on a 12 unit deal right as COVID-19 was taking the world by storm. The pandemic caused additional problems on top of the regular challenges that come with any property–rowdy tenants, delays, labor shortages–and yet one and a half years later, the Sheldons’ property is thriving. In this episode, the Sheldons discuss their business model and how they navigated being “COVID Closers.”
Jeromie and Anne Marie Sheldon Real Estate Background
- Jeromie recently retired as an Air Force Pilot after 24 years of service and is now flying 747 overseas for UPS out of Anchorage, Alaska.
- Anne Marie is a Licensed Physical Therapist.
- They are both CREI, LPs in syndications, Active apartment owners.
- Both actively and passively involved in CREI.
- Portfolio: Started out with a SFR 2015 full cycle. Currently, Passive LP deals = 2000 + doors, Independent GPs on a 12 unit & 5 unit locally in WNY.
- Also own a townhouse- LTR (12 beds for pilots called “crashpads”) in Anchorage, AK.
- Based in Grand Island, NY (close to Niagara Falls & Buffalo, NY)
- You can say hi to them here:
Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluffy stuff. With us today, Jeromie and Anne Marie Sheldon. How are you two doing?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Great. Thank you so much for having us on the show, Joe.
Jeromie Sheldon: Yes, Joe. Thank you. It’s an honor and a privilege to be on the show with you.
Joe Fairless: Well, it’s my pleasure. Just behind the scenes Best Ever listeners, I called in eight minutes late to this interview, and they were waiting very patiently for me, so I appreciate both of your patience and I’m looking forward to dive-in in my last interview [unintelligible [01:08]. Jeromie recently retired as an Air Force pilot after 24 years of service. First, officer, thank you for your service. I respect what you did for our country, you, and your colleagues.
Jeromie Sheldon: Thanks, Joe. It’s much appreciated. I’m so honored to have served our great nation, and just a blessing to be part of that team.
Joe Fairless: Anne Marie is a licensed physical therapist. They’re both commercial real estate investors, actively and passively. They focus on apartments. In fact, let’s talk about their portfolio. They started out with a single-family rental that they took full cycle in 2015. They’re currently passive investors in over 2,000 doors, and they’re independent general partners on a 12-unit and a 5-unit locally where they live, in New York. They live in Grand Island, New York which is close to Niagara Falls in Buffalo, New York. With that being said, you two want to give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Jeromie Sheldon: Yeah, like I say, you kind of hit it there with our background, with me coming out of the Air Force, Anne Marie is a physical therapist, and she also helps teach our kids at home. We’ve got a busy home, with six blessings. But our big focus really is to grow a portfolio as many of your listeners are doing. We joined a program in 2018 and got into some limited partnerships.
Joe Fairless: Which program?
Jeromie Sheldon: It was the [unintelligible [02:36] program, and then we’ve also had some personal coaching with Anna Kelly, and then we were also part of a mastermind. That’s probably one of our main points is we’ve wanted to just focus on educating ourselves in this space. We’re both professionals and we feel that education is very important and would probably qualify [unintelligible [00:02:54].17] advice. And then, like I say, we’ve limited partners in about five deals across Arizona, Texas, and Florida, just saw one go full cycle and gave us significant returns. We’re very happy.
Joe Fairless: Nice. Congrats.
Jeromie Sheldon: And then we also wanted to get our hands dirty a little bit with working with property management and just getting into the weeds of managing our own properties. So that’s why we got involved with the 12-unit and the 5-unit here in New York, just to make sure we kind of understand the full aspects of commercial real estate; really, before we felt comfortable trying to do a syndication and taking other investors money, we wanted to be able to make sure we understood all aspects of it. The long-term goal is to get into syndications, but we feel it’s a process of moving that forward, and growing our assets to a point where we kind of have a long-term vision of growing that asset. And then being able to start a retreat center. We won’t get into that, but that’s to minister and give back.
Joe Fairless: You were passively investing in deals, and then you decided to do some active deals, the 12-unit and the 5-unit. What did you think of that process?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Well, it was great to see the passive deals first and also to interact with a lot of different investors and learn through that. We could see that we were lacking an understanding of asset management. So with the 12-unit, when we jumped in, the first thing we were doing once you close the deal and the work begins, we started doing our CapEx projects. That was a great learning experience, because our property management company is helping us run that 12-unit. But as far as the large projects, like the parking lot, LED lighting, things like that, we really wanted to oversee that. We wanted to get the bids from the contractors and really be hands-on in that process. So that was a great learning experience there, just to kind of understand what it’s like to work with contractors, what it’s like to get into these bigger projects, what the money is going to be, and how that’s going to improve the NOI and the value of the property. So that was one big learning experience for us in the beginning.
Joe Fairless: What did you learn from working with contractors?
Anne Marie Sheldon: We learned a couple of things. Sometimes it’s straightforward, and other times — one issue we really ran into is it’s a 12-unit. So when you’ve got a contractor, like for a parking lot, maybe they’re a commercial contractor doing parking lots – they’re looking for at the mall parking lot, that large institutional parking lot. You’ve got a good-sized parking lot, much bigger than residential, so you’re not falling in that category, but you’re not exactly falling in the commercial category fully. So it’s not a big enough deal for some, but it’s too large of a deal for others. We found that sometimes a 12-unit was falling in that situation. For example, the stairs going into the building need to be replaced. But in order to do that, that’s concrete work, that’s removing concrete, and that’s building specific molds to go back to replace like-kind with like-kinds, so you don’t have to pull a permit and do a lot of different changes. Well, we find the contractors are wanting to do the regular molds they have for residential; or if they’re commercial, concrete, they want to do the big parking lot. That’s been a big struggle in the labor shortage too, because a lot of times they don’t have the workers that they used to have. So we’re getting backed up as well.
Jeromie Sheldon: So we got through about 10 to 12 concrete folks, and I think we finally have landed on somebody that can do the workforce next spring. But it’s been a struggle, like I say, with COVID, and the labor shortage; there’s not a lot of folks out there that want to do concrete, and the folks that are out there are so busy, a little job like what we’ve got doesn’t work for them.
Joe Fairless: I heard you say that you’ve got a property management company, but you wanted to invest time working on the CapEx. But wouldn’t your property management company have a contact that you could work with?
Anne Marie Sheldon: In fact, they did. They had about two contacts. One of them stood us up. We came to the property, they didn’t show. I got in touch with the owner of the property management company and he goes, “I got stood up as well.” He dropped them from our list. Then we went on to the next person, and they were too busy at the time. So I think that was a situation; we went through so many actually, but I think that was a situation where they couldn’t do those particular molds, because these are very unique stairs with a very narrow driveway, so you can’t use a standard residential step mold; you’re going to have to do something customized. Now we hit a wall with the property management company trying to find someone, so we just continue to go off contacts and off leads from other people.
Joe Fairless: We jumped into the details quickly, which is great… But if we can take a half step back just to get a little perspective on the 12-unit… What do you buy it for and how did you find it?
Jeromie Sheldon: We found it through a local broker here in [unintelligible [00:07:55].11] We acquired it at 60k a door, which is pretty decent for this area. It’s an all-bills-paid unit, so that was also a little bit into our factor. Location is what really drove it. It’s in a suburb of Southern Buffalo, and it’s right on the main street, and essentially, the crime, the schools, the High School is just down the streets, it’s a nine out of 10. It had been on the market for about a year; and the street appeal – the previous owners were pretty much doing everything themselves, so the street appeal was probably not good. We were able to work a pretty good deal; they were asking 750k and we got it for 720k.
Joe Fairless: Okay. How long ago was this?
Jeromie Sheldon: We consider ourselves COVID closers. So as the wave of COVID was coming across the world, we closed in March of 20.
Joe Fairless: Wow. Yeah, right there. Like right on the cusp of Armageddon.
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yeah. Everyone was going, “Do what?” Everybody was looking at us and going “Do you want to still do this deal?” [unintelligible [08:58] in a hurry. They were thinking we were going to back out.
Joe Fairless: Obviously, you got financing. Was that tricky? Maybe not, obviously… Did you pay cash? I guess I didn’t ask that?
Jeromie Sheldon: No. The financing actually was probably one of the easiest things. We used a local bank here in town. I think probably part of it is because we’ve got a W2 and we had the other assets. We had the stuff invested in the syndication, so we were able to show all that. So I think they were comfortable with us.
Then the other piece of it was I think the location; the bank president had actually looked at the property when it was for sale about eight years prior and was considering buying it, so they knew, location-wise, we wouldn’t have any issues with keeping it full. We’ve been blessed, through COVID, we’ve had no non-payers. Everybody has been paying rent, a couple slow, and then we did have one person… We talked about this same [unintelligible [09:48]. We did cash for keys, and we had one person that was causing a lot of issues right after we took over. We gave them some money and said “Hey, we’ll help you go find another place.” They took it and ran. We got to a new tenant in there, we fixed it up, and they’ve been great.
Joe Fairless: How did you determine how much money to give that person to leave?
Anne Marie Sheldon: That was interesting… Our property management company said, “Let’s just write him a check for $500, or something.” I said, “First of all, this guy’s not a check guy. This guy’s a cash guy. So we’re going to handle cash.” Not us, but the property management company. So here’s the situation… His rent was around — we bumped it since then quite a bit– but it was around 750 a month. What he was doing was he wasn’t paying rent, he was subletting it to someone; so he was actually getting rent, we found out through the grapevine, through the other tenants that he had a sublet that was paying him. So $500 a month when he was getting $750 or $800 from someone else wasn’t going to get him out. So we said, “Let’s go with $1,000, because we’re going to bump the rent on this unit to $950.” And this moratorium is just starting, so we’re thinking this is going to go on for a year. You potentially could lose $10,000 or more from this guy. So we felt like $1,000 cash was what was going to dangle the carrot for him.
The property management company said… He said he would think about it for a couple days, and when they said “We’ll give you cash”, then he signed the document to say he would agree to those terms. And then when they gave him the cash, I guess his comment was “Cash is king, this is great.” [laughter] He was not just not paying and subletting, but he was in fact doing all kinds of things on the property – intimidating tenants, playing music super loud… It’s a really quiet community and village, and there were three other tenants threatening to move out, isn’t it? So we probably also could have lost rent from those other units as well. So $1,000 was kind of a drop in the bucket to get rid of that.
Joe Fairless: Knowing what you know, having asset-managed the property, as well as gotten in there on some CapEx stuff for a little over a year or a year and a half, what would you do differently if presented a similar opportunity on your next acquisition? Maybe you didn’t do it wrong, but what would you do a little differently on the next deal if it’s the exact same 12-units, similar block, similar challenges, and now you’ve got another chance at operating it a little differently?
Jeromie Sheldon: I think one thing would be restructuring the deal so we didn’t have to come out of pocket for as much of the CapEx. We probably would have been willing to offer full price, or even a little more if we could have worked some of the CapEx into the loan proceeds. So I think that looking back – we had the capital, but especially going through COVID, the worry, and that type of stuff, it would have been nice to probably hold some of that back. But we felt we needed to do it to improve the place, to tell the tenants that, “Hey, new owners are here and we’re going to make improvements.” But it would have been nice to be able to finance fixing the parking garage and putting new lighting in. So in the future, I think we will definitely look at how we could get more proceeds out of the closing to go ahead and take care of some of the CapEx without having to come up with it straight out of pocket.
Joe Fairless: Anything come to mind for you Anne Marie?
Anne Marie Sheldon: I think another thing that we do differently is when we were looking at property management companies, we only looked at a few. Looking back now — and we’ve learned a ton over the last two years and we still have a lot to learn… But one thing we did learn is we didn’t really vet that the property management company properly. When I say vet, I mean we did ask them certain key questions, but we didn’t really get as transparent with our business plan as we could have. And I think we could have done a better job on the front end, saying “When a unit turns, this is what we picture happening with the unit, this is what we want to do, this is the rents we’re trying to achieve.” We did tell them what rents we’re looking at, but we didn’t really tell them the steps in between that we were looking to do. So I think we kind of caught them off guard on the first few turns, because when you take over a property, a lot of times a couple of turns happen right away, with new ownership. And immediately, the maintenance… It was a busy time, it was the summer when the first turns happened, and COVID happened, and they were short of some staff. But when we went to say “Okay, we want everything, from new flooring, to all the covers painted, to new vanities, new fixtures, new trim” it was more than they were used to. They were used to like the quick turns, just steam clean the carpet, do the small little ramp up, or no ramp up and just kind of keep going. I don’t think they foresaw that we were going to do moderate to heavier turns on some of the units… Because some of these units were neglected. It’s a 1960s building; they were not only neglected, but they were out of date. And to get the ramp-ups we wanted, we’re going to have to do some considerable changes to the unit. So I think just being more transparent and more direct with what we were trying to do instead of muddling through that on the first turn could have been even better,
Joe Fairless: What are the rent increases that you are achieving, and how much per unit are you investing on those turns?
Jeromie Sheldon: Most of the stuff that we’re turning, like for instance, we’re turning one right now that just moved out… They were paying $750, we’re going to bump it to $975. For this unit, we’re doing some of it ourselves. I think it gets back into ensuring that we’re real estate professionals, so we’re trying to show that active involvement. But for this unit, we’re going to put in probably about $3500 to get it… We’ll put in a new flooring, we’re doing the painting, doing some updates in the kitchen, and that type of stuff, the bathroom.
Joe Fairless: And you can get $225 rent increase on that $3500 renovation, not including your time?
Jeromie Sheldon: If we weren’t part of it, it would be more than $3,500.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, I get that. But not including your time, which is a lot of money. But just without including your time, it’s $3500 in order to get a $225 rent increase?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yes.
Jeromie Sheldon: Yes.
Joe Fairless: That’s a 77% return. That’s a pretty good return. Again, not including your time, but still, those are some favorable numbers as an investor.
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yeah. We didn’t put a lot of time into this one. It depends on what your definition of that is. But the reason we chose to assist on this one is our kids. It’s kind of funny, but a quick side note… They want mountain bikes and want double suspension mount bikes, we have six children… And we were like “We’re not buying everyone just a brand-new double suspension bike.” [laughter] We said when they work at the units with us – which isn’t that often, it’s more in the summer – we pay them; we pay them all different hourly wages depending on their age. One of our sons, we pay him more than he gets in his job, more than minimum wage. So we said, “There’s a short spurt of time, three or four days, we’re going to go paint. If you guys want to get these bikes, if you have the money for the bike, you’ve got to raise the other half. Here’s your opportunity. You want to come paint or just clean up behind us, whatever, you can make half the money and we’ll pay you for it.”
Joe Fairless: I love it.
Anne Marie Sheldon: That’s why we did this unit this way. Typically, in the last few units, like in our 5-unit, we are not involved in the painting or the [unintelligible [18:45]
Joe Fairless: Got it. That’s great. That’s beneficial for many reasons. Is there also benefit there from a tax standpoint, paying your kids? I’m vaguely familiar with something where you can pay your kids and…
Jeromie Sheldon: I think you’re right. We’ve talked to our accountant, but I think we can pay each one of the kids, I think it’s up to $6,000, and that comes off of the business income. And they don’t have to worry about paying federal income tax on that money. So yes, it’s a way for us to pay our children through the company. It’s obviously an expense on the company that our kids get to take advantage of. We’re firm believers in this as a family business and everybody partakes in it.
Joe Fairless: Anne Marie, how many hours a week do you work with your licensed physical therapist role?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Currently, I’m not working with the role. I’ve kept my license and my education up. I’m helping people pro bono on the side, friends and family that need help, but I’m currently staying home, homeschooling the kids.
Joe Fairless: Oh, wow, homeschooling. Okay. And you got six kids?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yes.
Joe Fairless: Okay. Alright. So the question that I was setting up is still relevant. Because Jeromie, you retired, but you’re now flying 747s overseas for UPS, out of Anchorage, Alaska. So how do you two prioritize your time? Because you’ve got six kids… One of you definitely has a full-time job. Jeromie, I don’t know how many hours you’re doing, but I’m assuming it’s more than 10 per week on average. How are you prioritizing?
Anne Marie Sheldon: I think a couple of things… One, we learn to time-block. We knew about time-blocking, but not as detailed as Anna Kelly, our coach. She really taught us more details and models in our personal coaching time with her on how to do that. So I think that has really helped.
Also, with Jeromie being active-duty military, it was a lot busier in some ways than it is now, in that he flies 14 days a month now, but he has 14 days a month completely off. So the last three weeks, he’s been home, he’s been helping, and we’ve been doing more on the real estate side. We’re networking for things to grow our business.
For me, I’m doing homeschooling, from about the hours — that’s nine to three or nine to two. I do drive around for different activities, but my senior is driving now, so that helps. What I’ll do is your nine to midnight, nine to 11 shift, I do a lot of those things. Sometimes we’ll do the networking in the early evening, and I will do the asset management type things in the early to midafternoon. Sometimes you have to do things in the morning, and then the kids, I’ll direct them on what they’re doing independently, or two of them are helping each other. But it’s kind of a rotating juggling act a little bit there. But just kind of trying to find those blocks of time.
Joe Fairless: Taking a step back. What’s your best real estate investing advice ever?
Anne Marie Sheldon: I think for us, there’s a couple of things. We feel like there are some non-negotiables that we have, and it’s taken a little bit of time to develop. When we’re looking at a deal, when we’re looking at a partnership, we have certain foundational things that we agree on that we’re looking for. So I think sticking to those and not getting really excited about a deal, an opportunity, and jumping in too quickly, or a partnership. I feel like a partnership is a marriage with someone else. We want to be aligned and we also want to be transparent with our financial situation and their financial situation, so that you’re not jumping in and then finding out later that there’s a hitch in there and somebody’s finances aren’t going to work for that deal. So we feel like those things are foundational things. And it sounds really simple, and I think it is, but sometimes it’s hard to stick to your guns and stay with that when you’re in the excitement of deals and partnerships.
Jeromie Sheldon: Or there’s pressure to get into a deal. I think we’re fortunate that a lot of our real estate income that we’ve got, we’re not living off of that. That has helped us out as well as we’re able to vet the deals and say, “Does this really make sense for us as a family?” And then, like I say, the non-negotiables, if it doesn’t really meet that, and we’re okay, just passing on that, being patient and waiting for the next opportunity.
Joe Fairless: What deal have you two lost the most amount of money on?
Jeromie Sheldon: We got into a deal, it was a flip of 4-unit in Dallas. This one was – essentially, we were providing the debt fund for it, and we got caught up in COVID, or the team of contractors got caught up in COVID. It was supposed to be in and out in a year; they were going to get everybody in, as soon as the leases were done, move them out, do complete rent-outs, then get them released up, and then have the entire place sold within a year. That didn’t happen, obviously, with COVID, contractors, lockdowns, all that type of stuff. The team finally got the last property sold in June, so it was almost a two-year hold versus a one-year hold, so we ended up losing about 20% on the money we put in to that deal.
Joe Fairless: How much did you put in?
Jeromie Sheldon: We each put in 100k. We lost about 20k each, so about 40k total to that deal, just because, really, the business model didn’t work because it got slowed down by an entire year.
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yeah, the flipping model.
Joe Fairless: If presented a similar opportunity in Dallas, would you do it, because you chalk it up to “Hey, that was COVID”? Or would you not do it because “Okay, it was COVID but also XYZ variables, and I’m not comfortable with that so I wouldn’t do that type of investment.”
Jeromie Sheldon: Yeah, it’s something that we would think twice about in the future. We didn’t do as good a job vetting the group either. We felt – the debt fund, okay, we’re just going to get X amount of return, we’re not into it for the equity. So I think we would really think hard and fast again about a model that is really predicated off of a one-year timespan. So yeah, probably do some more homework.
Joe Fairless: It sounds like you would pass…
Jeromie Sheldon: I think so. Yes.
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yes.
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Fair enough. We’re going to do a lightning round. Are you two ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Anne Marie Sheldon: Yes.
Jeromie Sheldon: Yes, sir.
Joe Fairless: Alright. Best Ever way you like to give back to the community.
Anne Marie Sheldon: For us, we as a family, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we join up with the regular Gospel Mission here in town. We go to different apartment complexes, like the lower-income section eight areas and we deliver meals with them. We bring joy to them, have conversations, how are you doing, pray for them. That’s one way we love to get back.
The second way is – our long-term vision, is to use the proceeds from real estate to purchase a wellness ranch healing place where we can continue to give back to veterans with PTSD, and help them get well and get back on their feet again.
Joe Fairless: Keep me posted on that. If there’s anything I can do to help out with that. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you two are up to?
Anne Marie Sheldon: If they want to get in touch with us, we’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, all the social media sites. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Those are probably the best ways.
Joe Fairless: Jeromie and Anne Marie, thank you for being on the show. Thanks for talking in detail about your experience both as an LP, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and as a GP. Those 12 units, contractors, debt, closing, being COVID closers, the business model that you’re employing, and setting expectations with the property management company prior to closing. Thanks for all the insights you shared and your experiences. Hope you two have a Best Ever day and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Anne Marie Sheldon: Thank you so much, Joe. We appreciate it.
Jeromie Sheldon: Appreciate it, Joe. All the best. Thank you
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