Camilla Jeffs Real Estate Background
- Founder and CEO at Steady Stream Investments, which helps people achieve an elevated level of financial health through investing passively in cash-flowing real estate that impacts local communities, all without the hassles of being a landlord.
- Portfolio: 107 multifamily units passive, 600+ multifamily units active, 64-bed assisted living new construction, totaling to $80M AUM.
- Based in: North Dallas, TX
- Say hi to her at: www.camillajeffs.com
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Slocomb Reed: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Slocomb Reed. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. Today we have Camilla Jeffs with us. How are you doing Camilla?
Camilla Jeffs: Fantastic. Thanks for having me on.
Slocomb Reed: Great to have you here. Camilla officially went full-time as a real estate investor about 10 weeks ago. She has 18 years of commercial real estate investing experience as a multifamily syndicator, both active and passive. Her current portfolio includes 107 multifamily units in which she’s invested passively, 600 plus multifamily units where she’s an active investor, and a 64-bed assisted living new construction, totaling at 80 million in AUM. She’s based in North Dallas, Texas, and you can say hi to her at camillajeffs.com. Camilla, tell us about yourself. What got you into real estate?
Camilla Jeffs: Thanks. I want to clarify one point on the bio. You said I have 18 years of commercial real estate experience. That’s not true. 15 of that was actually residential. I spent 15 years in the residential space doing single-family rentals, some small multifamily as well… But what got me into real estate? Well, it really was necessity. My husband and I were living in a garage apartment, had very little money, we were both students in college, trying to make ends meet, working full-time, school full-time… And our landlady came to collect the rent one day, because that was back in the time where you put the rent in an envelope on your door and they would pick it up. I started a conversation with her and just said, “How are you doing in what you’re doing? I know you have multiple rentals. I know you’re a realtor as well. Tell me about this.” As we started talking, she suggested that maybe I should buy a house. I was like, “No, we’re poor. We don’t have any money. There’s no way we can afford a house. We can barely afford this garage apartment that we are renting.”
She said, “Actually, there’s a really cool strategy you could use where you could buy a house that has a basement apartment, and then you could rent it out, and your monthly payment might even be lower than what you’re paying in the garage apartment.” I thought about that for a minute. I thought “That’s really interesting.” That’s exactly what we did. We worked with her and we found a six-bedroom home. It was giant. Well, for us it was giant, because we’re in this little tiny, nasty apartment. And we bought this home as owner-occupants, so we were able to put just 3% down and got the best interest rates… And then it had a basement apartment, it had a kitchen in the basement, three bedrooms in the basement, and we rented those out, and we were able to live there for about $150 a month, is all that we paid for that house. And it had a pool in the backyard. How cool was that?
Slocomb Reed: That’s awesome.
Camilla Jeffs: And it was the only way that we really could get into it — well in our minds, at that time. That’s the only way we thought we could get into it. So today the term is house-hacking, and it’s a fantastic way to start in real estate for anybody. I recommend it for anybody to house-hack. And then that’s when we started thinking, “Okay, there’s something to this real estate thing”, and I started diving in, reading all the books I could find, and figuring it out. Then we just grew our portfolio, one house at a time. We were not the 10Xers, we were not the one out there massively pounding the pavement and getting it; we were just growing our portfolio.
So for 15 years, we grew a nice single-family residential portfolio, and then I hit burnout. I hit this point, because we were literally doing everything ourselves. I was mowing the lawn, we were fixing the toilets, answering the tenant calls, all the things. I was just to the point where like, “I’m tired.” And we had five kids by then, so there was a lot going on. Then I decided to pivot into large multifamily. The first thing we did was sell a bunch of our properties and invest passively. Then second, now I’ve built an active multifamily portfolio by focusing on teaching other people how to invest passively into real estate. That’s where I am today.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. So you made the transition from single-family and small multifamily into larger deals, primarily to get yourself out of the day-to-day tasks that you were doing when you were self-managing?
Camilla Jeffs: Yeah, I was definitely looking for more time freedom.
Slocomb Reed: That’s awesome. What does your active investing look like now? Are you specifically in the Dallas Metro? What size properties are you looking for?
Camilla Jeffs: We just barely moved to Dallas about a year ago, so I’m still figuring out the Dallas market. I actually don’t have any assets in Dallas yet, but I plan to pick up a couple next year. But my portfolio consists of four assets in Arizona and two assets in Oklahoma. I like both of those markets, for two different reasons. Arizona, that’s where we used to live, so I know that market well and spent a lot of time in that market. It’s growing like crazy high appreciation, it’s booming; so that’s a great appreciation market to take advantage of that. And then Oklahoma is just a fantastic cash flowing market. It just cash flows from day one, really nice returns in terms of cash flow. Those are the two markets that I focus on currently.
Slocomb Reed: Is there a particular part of Oklahoma?
Camilla Jeffs: I have an asset in Oklahoma City and one near Tulsa. Both are great.
Slocomb Reed: You said you sold some of your portfolio, your smaller stuff, to get into passive investing. As a passive investor, what attracted you to particular syndicators or operators? Who is it that got your business, and why?
Camilla Jeffs: To be honest, it wasn’t very scientific for me in the beginning, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’ve been a real estate investor for 15 years, so I thought I had a good experience, I thought I knew about real estate… But actually, investing in commercial real estate is completely different. There are different metrics, they use different numbers, they talk about it in a different way. With my real estate investing, for example, I never thought about equity multiple. And in commercial real estate we talk about equity multiples. Well, that’s because in my single-family portfolio, I didn’t have a set end date. I couldn’t project over five years, for example, which is what we do in commercial. So equity multiple was a very fascinating number for me to fixate on that.
So how did I find the people that I ultimately invested with? Again, living in Arizona, so I knew I wanted to invest in an Arizona asset, so I could drive by it and see it, because I wanted to be able to touch it. That’s what I had done with all my other properties; because I’m still in this DIY mindset. I’m trying to figure out “How can I even partner with other people? How can I trust these people to take care of my money?” It caused a lot of anxiety for me. I knew it was the right thing to do, I knew it was the right way to level up and to get out of being a landlord, but it was still hard to pass my money over and feel 100% confident. I don’t think you ever feel 100% confident in an investment. There are always risks, there’s always things, but you can do some steps.
One of the steps I did was I wanted to meet the people that I was investing with. So I got out of my comfort zone – and I think we’re going to talk about being an introvert a little bit later, in a bit… But I’m an introvert, and I never, never in my 15 years of investing, in the beginning, did I go to a real estate networking event. That was way too scary, I didn’t ever want to do that. So I didn’t really have any other friends who were investing. Well, to invest in commercial, it’s group investing; you can’t do it on your own. So I had to get out of my comfort zone, so I literally googled multifamily meetup in Arizona, and I started going to some of those. Some were very inexperienced people like me, who’d never done anything, that were trying to figure it out how to do something. And then some had more experience, folks that were there. So I just started networking and talking to some of the folks.
After I’d gotten to know a certain guy for a while, he came to me and he’s like, “Hey Camilla, I have a deal.” I was like, “Okay, show me what this deal looks like.” He walked me through the deal, he answered all my questions, and then I was like, “Okay, let me think about it. I’ll get back to you.” Over the next couple of weeks, he just followed up with me; he was just right there like, “Hey, what do you think? Do you have any other questions? How can I help?” He was very responsive to me and I really appreciated that about him, that he didn’t just, “Okay, if she’s interested, she’ll get back to me.” Because honestly, I probably never would have. I never would have gotten back to him, because I just needed someone to kind of push me along and help me to do that.
So really, after looking at what he had, talking to him about his track record, like “What have you done in the past?” And I’ll admit, it was light, it wasn’t even like someone who’d been doing it for 10 or 15 years. He’d been doing it for a couple of years. But I really liked the deal, I liked the concept of group investing, and I wanted to have that experience and have that as part of my portfolio. So I ended up investing $50,000 into that investment. And it’s going really well, it’s awesome. I get checks, I get notifications, and updates on it… And that’s the only thing I do. I don’t have to do anything. It’s amazing.
Slocomb Reed: Very different from taking your own maintenance calls, and cutting your own grass, and showing your own houses, for sure.
Camilla Jeffs: Yeah. 100%.
Slocomb Reed: That’s awesome.
Slocomb Reed: Camilla, thinking about yourself around three years ago when you invested passively for the first time, thinking of yourself as an introvert do-it-yourselfer who wants to get more time freedom and get into larger deals, take better advantage of the wealth that you built for yourself through your own active investing – thinking back to yourself three years ago, what advice would you give to other people who find themselves in the same situation? They’ve been shoveling garbage out of their parking lots, and showing apartments, getting stood up, getting paint on clothes they never thought would have paint on them… What advice do you have for those people to get into passive investing?
Camilla Jeffs: Yeah, I ruined a lot of pants. [laughs] That paint, you just like accidentally bump a wall, you’re like “Dang it!” [unintelligible [00:13:07].00] those pants.
Slocomb Reed: Best Ever advice for people who have to do their own manual labor – wear scrubs, what nurses wear. It’s tough, it’s durable, it’s lightweight, it doesn’t matter how hot it is outside… I have so many dirty, bloody, painty scrubs from when I’ve had to do that stuff myself. Sorry Camilla, please continue.
Camilla Jeffs: I love it. I love it. [laughs] Okay, so what advice would I give to a fellow introverted burnt out landlord? Number one is there is a better way; there just is. It’s pretty crazy that the returns that I’m getting on this passive investment beat out some of the returns that I was getting on some of my single-family properties. I literally don’t have to do any of the work. That was mind-blowing to me. So number one, there’s a better way.
Number two – yes, it’s going to take a little bit of getting out of your comfort zone to get started. I think that’s the hardest part. The hardest part is getting out of that comfort zone a little bit to get started. And what I mean by a little bit is you don’t need to meet 50 syndicators; you need to meet a couple. You need to find a couple of people that you feel comfortable with, that you feel like they have the same vision and values as you, that you feel like are going to be very communicative, that you feel comfortable with their experience, their background, and what they bring to the table. Then you can start evaluating their opportunities.
So how do you meet them? Well, you’ve gotta attend some networking events. The whole nature of commercial real estate investing and some of the rules that we have to follow for the SEC are you have to have a personal relationship, a lot of times, to even get in these deals. So what is a personal relationship? It could be as simple as a call that you’ve had, like a Zoom call, face-to-face, or you met up at a real estate conference, or things like that.
You can go to real estate conferences… Go to a real estate conference. I know that’s even scarier than a smaller meetup. So here are my strategies for doing that; here’s my Best Ever advice for introverts, at real estate networking. Number one, when you walk in the room, find someone who’s sitting alone. Chances are that person is also an introvert and is just as uncomfortable as you are. Go sit by that person and strike up a conversation. They will be so grateful that you did. And then you have your one-on-one conversation. No awkward, “Oh, there’s this clump of five people who are talking and laughing, and I’ll try to like waddle up and see if they’ll notice me, or insert myself…” No, that does not work for introverts. We don’t do that, we don’t work like that. So find someone there.
Number two advice is to set a goal for yourself, whether that’s three people or five people – set a small goal for yourself that says, “I cannot leave this conference until I have met five new people.” And then, once you’ve hit that goal, give yourself permission to leave. And if you’re still uncomfortable after meeting five new people, you have full-on permission to leave. You’ve hit your goal, you can pat yourself on the back, “I did it! I met five people. I got five business cards, people I could follow up with and talk to you later. Great. I’m done. I can go home.”
Because one of the challenges that introverts have is that, being in those large groups of people, it drains our energy. It’s not that we don’t like it, it just drains our energy, because we gain energy from being alone, in our thoughts, reading a book, walking in nature, things like that. That’s how we gain energy. Whereas extroverts, they gain energy from being with people, and they really feed on each other. It just drains introverts. But it’s not that we don’t want to be there and we don’t like talking to people; that’s a myth about introverts. But that’s my advice for introverts at networking conferences.
Slocomb Reed: That’s awesome. Find the other introverts; you know how to identify yourselves because they look and feel the way you look and feel, walking into a big room. And set a goal for how many people you know you’ll talk to. Then give yourself permission to be done when you need to be done and the tank is empty. That’s awesome. Camilla, taking the perspective of I know a lot of our listeners were active investors, and taking the perspective of myself if I’m honest, and you now as an active investor, what advice do you have for us when we are looking to attract passive investors to ourselves, particularly introverted passive investors?
Camilla Jeffs: To attract passive investors, you need to be heavily focused on education. I always say that Steady Stream Investments is an education company, because that’s what I do, I really focus on education. So if you think about a passive investor – and I thought really hard about my own experience and what my own experience was like, what I could have used to feel even more comfortable about investing… Because I felt like I was the one that was pulling for the information. But if you can set yourself up as someone who is pushing information to your investors, your investor database – that’s key, you’ve got to start building an investor database, and then nurturing that database in some shape or form.
My favorite thing to do is at first — but first start your database, you need to send out a sample deal… You need to come up with a sample deal, like “Here’s the types of deals I’m looking at.” If you’re in your mind, you’re like, “My next deal, I probably need to raise money from passive investors. I’ve never done it before. What do I do?” Put together a three-page thing on this deal. What is this going to look like? Where’s it going to be? Why do you like this market? What type of deal will it be? What kind of returns would the investor expect to receive? Everybody you know that you have their email, send this information to them and say, “You know, I’ve been an investor, and I’ve been doing this, and this, and I’m really excited about the next steps. My next step would be to start a group investment where I can allow other people to invest with me. So if I had a deal like this, would you be interested?” Everybody who says yes, you put them on a list. Now, this is the start of your investor database.
This is where most people get it wrong… Because they’ll do that, they’ll start, and they’ll get all these people who say they’re interested, and then they think, “Okay, great. Now when I have a deal, I’ll send it to all these interested people and they will invest.” Well, there’s a big difference between someone who is interested and someone who actually invests in a deal. Everybody’s interested in real estate, everybody knows that real estate’s a great investment. But to get them to actually invest, you have to really be strategic in educating them; so you can’t just leave them alone. So you’ve got to be sending out information constantly, and then think really hard about the information you’re sending out. Is it tailored to a passive investor, what a passive investor needs to know, or are you just touting your accomplishments and achievements and “Here are all the things that I’ve done, and here’s what I’m doing”, just to stay top of mind?
Again, a big difference between sending out information that says, “Here’s what I’ve been doing all the time. Here are all the podcasts I’ve been on. Here’s all this stuff” and then you flip that and say, “Hey, you investor, here’s what you need to know to be prepared for the next deal. Here’s how you vet a sponsor. Here’s how you vet a deal. Here’s what you need to understand about equity multiples. Here’s what you need to understand about the average annual return. Here’s what you need to know about IRR.” Hardly anybody understands IRR. That’s a hard calculation to figure out. So think about how you’re educating your investors… And I guarantee, if you flip the script and focus on the education of your investors, by the time you have a deal, they will be ready and they will invest in your deal.
Slocomb Reed: A personal question, Camilla… This is coming from me and I hope it is relatable to some of our Best Ever listeners. Let me set the scene for you. I host Cincinnati’s Best Ever Real Estate Investor Mastermind at Joe Fairless’ investor meetup here in Cincy… And I am a large, gregarious man, 6’4″, 300 plus pounds. When I raise my voice to make an announcement, everyone just naturally gets quiet, turns around, listens, and then does whatever I tell them to do. The opposite of the introvert experience at meetups like that. I know there Best Ever listeners here who host local meetups and want to engage everyone who walks through the door. How can I help 2017 Camilla feel welcome at my meetup and how can I help you get connected with the people she showed up to connect with without draining the energy tank too quickly?
Camilla Jeffs: Well, number one — as an introvert, when I walk into a room, I immediately scan the room and try to figure out who is safe for me to talk to, and who’s going to be a safe person. I think as the host of the meetup, I think you need to work really hard on your own safety vibe. What vibe are you giving off? I think the way you approach – so you can’t approach gregariously, or I’m going to be like, “Whoa…! You’re too much. I can’t handle you.” But I think you can definitely approach me and welcome me; that’s really helpful, actually, for an introvert to be welcomed immediately, as soon as we walk in the space. So I think being the greeter at the door would be helpful for you.
Anybody who’s hosting a meetup – greet at the door. Don’t be standing in the front of the room behind your desk, or table, or whatever. I get, you need to set up, but you got to set up well before the time that people started coming, so that 10 minutes before, you can be at the door and greeting people as they come in. And you’ll know immediately who a new person is, because you’re the one running this meetup. It depends on how big your meetup is. I walk in, I’m a new person…
Slocomb Reed: Introverts tend to show up early.
Camilla Jeffs: That’s right, we do. Because we want to sit up front, so we don’t have to be distracted by all the people. So as I walk in the door, you greet me and you’re like, “Hey, welcome. I haven’t met you before. What’s your name?” Immediately, I’m put at ease, because I don’t have to be the one that starts the conversation. I think it’s hard for introverts to start a conversation. If you ask me a question, I’m happy to answer that question. Then ask the second question you alluded to, “What are you looking for? How can I help you?” Then as they answer that question, in your mind, you should be thinking of people that you can introduce them to. The third step is to take them over to Sally over here and be like, “I think you would really like to meet Sally”, introduce them to Sally, and then you leave them on their own, and then you can go back to greeting more people. That would be a perfect scenario for me as an introvert walking into a brand new meetup.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Let’s wind down with this… Camilla, give me an example of a passive investor who remains nameless, of course, who you have engaged with to educate them and help them not only learn passive commercial real estate investing, but also invest in your deals – how you engaged with them to give them the confidence to invest with you.
Camilla Jeffs: I do that through multiple avenues. I started out building my email list, and then I do send out newsletters. I also added on webinars, so I hold monthly webinars with my passive investors, and we cover a certain topic. Last month, we did the three biggest risks to investing passively, so they could fully understand their risks. Then I have a one-on-one conversation with every single investor that comes into my database to answer their questions and help them out.
So I have a pool of investors, sometimes they’re in the background and they’re just kind of watching the education and reading it, and it takes them a while. And it doesn’t bother me at all. It doesn’t bother me at all if someone comes into my thing and they don’t invest for two, three, or four years; that’s fine. If you need that time to feel fully educated or feel like you have enough money saved – whatever, totally fine.
I had one who was in my database for almost two years, and finally, they invested. When they decided to invest, once I launched a deal, they put in a commitment. I was so excited to see their name on there, because I’d been working with them for a while… And then we had several conversations about it, because they’re still a little bit nervous and still wanted to fully understand everything. When it’s the first time investing, it’s a lot to take in. When you’re faced with that PPM that’s 100 pages of legalese, in really big letters, and it says risky, risky, risky, risky all the way through… It’s a lot, and I think that’s something that I’ve been able to really develop, kind of my superpower, is really helping the first-time passive investor fully understand the process so that they feel comfortable… 90% comfortable. Again, as I said, you’re never going to be 100% comfortable. But once you’re at 90%, you can invest, and getting them into a deal. And then we celebrate. It’s very exciting for them when it’s your first time investing in a deal, then you start receiving the distributions, you receive the monthly updates, and that’s when you start feeling really good about the choice that you made.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. That’s good stuff, Camilla. Thank you. And thank you for sharing your personal story and what it is that you’re doing to help investors now. If you are a burnt-out landlord, there is a better way. Re-listen to this episode. Camilla has shared her story to tell you about that better way. Get out of your comfort zone and do networking. Commercial real estate is it team game, it’s a group investment. When you are looking to attract passive investors for your active deals, focus on educating them and be proactive. Be the one who reaches out to the people who are looking to invest, to get their questions answered, their concerns addressed, and get them investing in your deals. Camilla, thank you again. Best Ever listeners, we hope you have a Best Ever day and we’ll see you tomorrow.
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