Young and hungry, Jeremiah Boucher got his start in commercial real estate by sourcing mobile home park deals during the Great Recession. Since then, he’s created his own management company and branched out into the self-storage space. In this episode, Jeremiah tells us how he found his edge as a young investor, what drew him to self-storage, and what advice he has for investors in both asset classes today:
Establishing value as a young investor.
After losing some houses in the Great Recession, Jeremiah had no money or credit to work with. One thing he could offer was his ability to source deals, so that’s exactly what he did to get his foot in the door with mobile home parks.
What attracted him to mobile home parks.
As a young investor, because Jeremiah didn’t have much capital or credit to work with, he sought deals that didn’t necessarily require either. In 2007, mobile home parks were largely financed through the seller — particularly with the Class C-type properties he worked with — which paved the way for him to begin landing deals.
Advice for mobile home park investors today.
Today, Jeremiah sees people overpaying for mobile home parks with potentially problematic business plans and budget expense expectations. Because of this, it might be a good idea to wait to buy until some of these newer owners are forced to sell.
Why he shifted to self-storage.
It’s a strong, recession-resistant asset class that’s scalable. Jeremiah has been able to manage, build, and acquire facilities quickly and obtain financing relatively easily.
Advice for self-store investors today.
Make sure you buy in a market where it is difficult to add supply in order to put yourself in a position where rent rates can increase as demand increases on a limited supply. Also, buy with a margin of error — make sure you’re conservative when it comes to rent numbers.
His Best Ever Advice: Find your edge.
Jeremiah recently wrote a book titled Finding Your Edge about what he has learned in the last 20 years in real estate. The most important thing, he says, is to identify your competitive edge in a space. Once you know what your strengths are, you can pursue opportunities where the deck is stacked in your favor.
Jeremiah Boucher | Real Estate Background
- Founder and CEO of Patriot Holdings, an investment firm that focuses on self-storage, mobile home parks, and flex industrial space. Patriot Holdings also owns All-Purpose Storage, which currently operates 30+ self-storage facilities throughout New England.
- Portfolio: $150M in AUM
- Based in: Las Vegas, NV
- Say hi to him at:
- Best Ever Book: Open by Andre Agassi
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Slocomb Reed: Best Ever listeners, welcome to The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I'm Slocomb Reed and I'm here with Jeremiah Boucher. Jeremiah is joining us from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the founder and CEO of Patriot Holdings, an investment firm that focuses on self-storage, mobile home parks, and flex industrial spaces. Patriot also owns all-purpose storage which operates 30 plus self-storage facilities throughout New England, where Jeremiah is from. Their portfolio is currently just over 150 million in assets under management. Jeremiah, can you start us off with a little more about your background and what you're currently focused on?
Jeremiah Boucher: Yeah. Thanks, Slocomb. Thanks for having me on. I'm glad to share with everybody. I started real estate 20 years ago. I graduated high school in '99 here in Vegas, jumped into college, quit, and then got into the residential boom. Got tanked in 2007, I lost some houses, and right around that time, I got into manufactured housing. That was kind of my gateway into the commercial real estate world. At that stage, I didn't have any money, I didn't have any credit. I actually just wrote a book about it, it's called Finding Your Edge, if you guys are interested, on Amazon.
That was a tough time, so what I did is, like a lot of the people that I've noticed on your podcast, I helped source deals; so I was out there, the guys that own Mobile Home Park Store, Dave Reynolds and Frank Rolfe, I called them up and I said, "I'm a hungry kid. I want to get into business. I don't know what I'm doing. What can I do to learn?" They said, "Well, go find deals." So I bought their list and scoured the whole country.
In over 10 years, I sourced almost 100 deals for those guys, took some fees, got some equity, and then broke off on my own back in 2016. I rolled that equity into my own management company, and that's when I broke into more syndications, acquiring for myself, got into storage at that time, and then just let it run from there. That's the short and sweet story.
Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. When you say you got into manufactured housing in '07, what that means is you found some people that you could learn from and you were doing acquisitions, deal hunting for them in the mobile home space?
Jeremiah Boucher: I was. And I was actively involved in capital improvement projects, hiring managers; I was involved in the operations. But yeah, that was the value that I added to that partnership, was going out there and sourcing deals.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. I don't know a lot of people who are looking for mobile home parks in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010; it got trendy recently. It was three or four years ago now that a lot of people started talking about mobile home parks. What is it that attracted you to that space during the Great Recession? We'll go from there.
Jeremiah Boucher: Yeah. So I was wiped out; I had no credit, no money. I looked like I was 15 years old. I was just definitely having a challenge at the time. I read Dave and Frank's book, "How to buy mobile home parks, The 10/20 Rule", or something like that. But what it opened my eyes to was that, at the time, no banks wanted to finance the asset; I didn't have any credit. I went out there and went to buy for myself, but at the time I didn't have any money. So I found them as partners. But what I loved is that I could still find deals throughout that process while sourcing them where I could get the owners to finance. That was really what I was looking to do, was find a mismanaged asset and get owner financing. But more importantly, I wanted to find the land lease community model. So when I heard the idea that you just lease lots, and people lease pieces of land from you for a flat fee, and you don't maintain any of the bedrooms, bathrooms, or roofs or anything else - that was quite attractive to me, because I had no team, I had no staff, nothing. In Vegas, even during the Great Recession, where I was living at the time, an asset dropped from 2 million or 5 million bucks to a million to 2 million bucks for a small strip center or something, and you still couldn't get any creative financing. I didn't see any opportunity here, so that's why I decided, "Okay, I've got to leave my market and I got to go find an asset class that I can actually go acquire."
Slocomb Reed: I don't operate in the mobile home space, but one of the things that I hear from the people in that space is that it's only recently that banks have started lending on mobile home parks. Quick question - how recently did you experience that, since I know you were in the industry before it happened?
Jeremiah Boucher: In terms of banks being more open or liking the asset class?
Slocomb Reed: Yes.
Jeremiah Boucher: Well, now there are quite favorable loans on mobile home parks, especially Freddie and Fannie. But a caveat to that is you have to have somewhat of a quality asset, or even if you don't own the homes, a quality community with quality homes in it for that to qualify. But I would say the last five years, really, the trajectory has been quite significant compared to what it was in 2007, 2008. KeyBank defaulted in New York on a huge portfolio from what I remember, and they had no appetite for mobile home park loans. And for about the next 10 years up to 2015, it was nice because the buyer pool was limited in that sense. But it was also a challenge, because even on my exit when I was selling at that time, they were always worried, "Is the guy going to be able to get a loan on the way out?"
Slocomb Reed: That makes sense. Back in '07, '08, and into and out of the Great Recession, were you buying these mobile home parks underwriting to a defined hold period, like five to seven years, or were you buying them to hold long term?
Jeremiah Boucher: At that time, I was so green... I knew what a cap rate was, I could open up Excel, I could do the income, expenses, the NOI, and I could calculate the interest-only loan that an owner would give me. That was my underwriting. But I was literally driving around in a van that my buddy lent me in Denver out to Nebraska, Western Nebraska, sitting down with a family, they had about 60 units, and it was 300 grand for that park. I'm sure when they saw me, they were like, "What is he doing out here from Las Vegas?"
But I came in there and I talked to them, I said "I have $30,000 to put down, 10% down own. If you guys could carry the note for five years, I'll pay it off over that period of time." I knew on my side that my partners could put up the money for me and we could raise the rents, to a degree. The rents were literally $150 a month at the time and we could get them to maybe $200 a month. I think my main focus at that time was, I guess I would say a five-year underwriting period. But it was really just somehow getting my hands on an asset and learning how to actually operate that asset, really figuring out if this was for me.
That was kind of the first break where I felt more confident, because even though it didn't cashflow much - a couple thousand a month in the beginning, and it ended up doing a little bit better - it gave me the confidence to know, "Okay, these are the issues. This is a structure that I could maybe build on." And now I had an asset under my belt, I'm an actual owner.
Slocomb Reed: Nice. Let me connect some dots here for our listeners, Jeremiah. Tell me where I'm wrong. You were looking for an opportunity to get into an asset class that didn't require you to have a lot of capital or a lot of credit or borrow ability. In mobile home parks, especially because banks just weren't interested in lending on them at the time, and seller financing was the most predominant way that these properties were purchased, mobile home parks were an opportunity for that 10% down. The seller carries the note, so you're not having to prove to a bank, underwrite, or your borrower ability, that was your opportunity to get in. Is that fair?
Jeremiah Boucher: Yeah, that's completely fair. And just make a distinction with that statement - now, the asset class has always been there and there has been an institutional aspect to it, where equity lifestyle communities that Sam Zell owns, high-quality parks that are in Florida, in Vegas here, out in California... What I'm talking about, like any asset class, was there was such a polarity in the quality of the asset. I'm talking about if you want to call it C class, or one star, the really lower-quality assets. That's where the opportunity was; no one wanted to lend on that and you could get quite creative.
Slocomb Reed: Okay, gotcha. So no one wanted to lend on what would be compared to class C properties, with regards to location and size and age. That makes a lot of sense.
Jeremiah Boucher: That's where the opportunity lies. If you have a stabilized quality asset, it's a lot more challenging to find an owner that wants to exit it or wants to carry the financing for you. But when you're dealing with 60 to 100 tenants with unique personalities and you have an older infrastructure with a lot of repairs, you've got to be out plowing at 6:00 A.M. on a Sunday. A lot of these older owners, or even owners that just don't have any interest in the business after a period of time - they get tired of it.
I guess the inefficiencies of the management are what creates the opportunity. That really was the other driving factor, that I could actually go in there and strike a decent deal with these people. Because at some stage, if it's not big enough where they can hire a good management team, and most of them don't want to - they're of the old school, if they need to manage it themselves; like my father, he just got to manage everything himself. After a while, it just wears on them and the family.
That was the opportunity. Just to let the listeners know about mobile home parks right now is they're a hands-on asset. I'll put myself out there and say there are no good third-party managers that I know of, at least that follows how I would want the asset managed. It's a little different. I don't know, Slocomb, about C-class apartments, but I definitely know the apartment world has higher quality management, because you have larger asset class sizes and better fee structures.
But for a mobile home, you are very hands-on. Just so everyone knows, I'm not actively, right now, growing in that space. I'm very picky in the mobile home park space. I'm only buying maybe 2% to 3% of all the deals that I look at. That's maybe a handful of parks a year, because I believe the asset class is a little overvalued, or maybe a lot overvalued.
So I'm only looking at opportunities that I've had my eyes on, that I know, one, that there's still some upside left, or two, that there is an infrastructure that I can maintain. Because a lot of this stuff was built back in the '50s and '60s and it's an absolute nightmare underneath the ground with clay piping; Orangeburg plastic, sewer lines, and all types of things.
So I just want everyone to know on there that that was a nice strategy, and I'm not saying it's not today. They need to be prudent in the underwriting, because there are a lot of costs involved in the management and maintenance and repairs that I don't believe are being factored in, and they're going to come back and bite some people that are buying with very thin margins.
Slocomb Reed: That makes a lot of sense, Jeremiah. You're giving me a lot to chew on here. I've taken a lot of notes while you were talking there. A few things you've brought up that I would like to make note of and talk about - the first is that I'll say, I'm an apartments guy and I am currently looking for those same owner-operator sellers that you were looking for in mobile home parks 10-15 years ago. I'm still seeing an opportunity with C class properties, sometimes in better than C locations.
But older properties, older owners, the people who have always believed that they need to do everything themselves, have some sort of ethical quandary when it comes to hiring someone else to do what they feel like they could do themselves. There's an entire generation of people who thought that way, and bought apartments and mobile home parks. Those are the opportunities that I'm working on capturing right now in apartments in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Of course, that's almost always with smaller properties that institutional money and, frankly, apartment syndication money isn't interested in, because they don't have the same scale. It's a very active boots-on-the-ground asset as well; to your point. I'm a self-manager, because I'm in that same C class space, and Cincinnati has relatively low market rents, which makes it more difficult to find quality third-party managers. I totally get where you're coming from there.
Jeremiah Boucher: Just to that message to the audience - I'm sure a lot of people listening are very active investors in their portfolio, and I think that no matter in good markets and bad markets, that's the sweet spot. What you're in, what I'm in, in terms of finding these asset classes that are big enough, that you have enough income, that you can actually pay your own management company. But they're not too big where they're so sizable that they're efficient in a way that you can hire high, high quality managers and those assets have no operational inefficiencies. So there's that sweet spot in there where the real small guy that is buying houses, he's not going to buy a $5 million apartment or mobile home park complex. But yet at the same time, the big guys, they're looking for $15 million to $20 million deals minimum to even touch, versus them dipping down into your $3 million to $5 million range.
So I think that the inefficiencies are there, so no matter what the market is, that's where I think... If you're willing to get your hands dirty, get to know your market, and get out there and talk to people, that's where the deals are going to be.
Slocomb Reed: Absolutely. There's definitely a space there in a lot of markets where you can find the right size property, the right class and condition of a property that you still have a lot of owner-operators in the space, and you can get direct-to-seller and find those opportunities. It is time-intensive. There's a lot of legwork involved, but there are also a lot of opportunity.
A frame of reference, Jeremiah, the last two apartment buildings that I've gotten under contract direct-to-seller had been five and six-unit apartment buildings in good parts of Cincinnati. But we're talking about people who have owned them for 20 and 30 years. My contract prices were 350 and 230. Each of those properties -- one of them is still under contract, one of them I release, because either one of them is going to need 100 grand in work, primarily due to deferred maintenance.
But the rent growth, the appreciation potential, and the forced appreciation potential are so great that I could be looking at BRRRR style cash-out refi's within a year on either one of those... Which puts a lot of cash flow and a lot of equity on my balance sheet with the smaller deals. That's similar to what you were saying about the mobile home parks that you were trading in before it got really hot a few years ago.
I think it sounded like you were saying, Jeremiah, a couple of things here... It feels like the mobile home space may be overcrowded now. That may have something to do with the asset class being a lot more borrowable. We're seeing returns and cap rates compress across almost all commercial real estate asset classes. You said you think mobile home parks might be overvalued and your focus has shifted. Before I ask where your focus is now, what is it that makes you say mobile home parks are overvalued?
Jeremiah Boucher: When you asked me how did I underwrite the deal, looking at it now with a much more sophisticated underwriting model, being an operator for the last 15 years, I know the true cost to operate the asset. From the amount of effort it takes on the management side, so your management fees, your payroll, the deferred maintenance, your water, your sewer, your infrastructure, with tree cutting, and with the power lines - all that stuff. I believe, right now, the true cost to improve that infrastructure is not being factored in over the long haul of the asset.
I think when you're buying at a six cap on an asset that's built in the 50s or 60s, or even early 70s, and you do have a rent increase most likely, the rents were depressed - but there's only so much that the renters can pay. We're serving a low-income housing need, and there's only so much net operating income. So if your debt is at a 3.5% rate or whatever you're at now, 4%, with rates creeping up, I just think that the margins there are quite thin. It might not be an expense, but it's a capital improvement that needs to be factored in that really is going to deplete a lot of the distributions or free cash flow that's leftover.
Break: [00:20:21] - [00:22:08]
Slocomb Reed: Jeremiah, I want to make sure I'm understanding you. I will say for our Best Ever listeners, we're recording in mid-March; the Fed just announced the first increase of the federal funds rate for 2022 earlier this week. When we talk about interest rates, please understand that that's where we're coming from, is mid-March 2022.
Now, making sure I understand what you're saying, Jeremiah, you think that mobile home parks are overvalued because the prices some of the people in the space are willing to pay don't account for the CapEx that the properties are going to need over time, so they're putting themselves in a position where their margins are too thin and could be taken over by those capital expenditures?
Jeremiah Boucher: Yes. That, and the true cost of management, where I believe you need a dedicated employee on-site to handle a lot of the issues and to service the tenants in a way that they're going to need their issues resolved or the attention that they would like. So I think the true cost of management, and then also on our staff, the asset manager that needs to continually check up on the asset, make sure that improvements are done the right way, make sure that the signage, the playgrounds, that roads, everything is taken care of. All these costs, they're intense on your operating company.
So I just think unless you're willing to do that yourself and if you're trying to scale in this space, there's a cost involved with that, and I don't believe it's being underwritten enough. You look at it and you think you can just run them from Las Vegas. You do need dedicated staff, and that needs to be factored in there. Just like any of the apartment deals that are smaller, C class, where it's not big enough to hire third-party management; you've got to factor in that maintenance and the manager there and that can eat up all your profit if you're not doing it yourself.
Slocomb Reed: That makes a lot of sense. So right before we transition to your current focus, I'm an owner-operator, and the reason I like more management-intensive properties is because I see higher returns. There are not as many people who are willing to be as boots on the ground as I am willing to be. If I were thinking about getting into mobile home parks right now, it sounds like the advice you gave me would be something like, "People are overpaying with possibly problematic business plans and possibly problematic budget expense expectations. It sounds like I shouldn't get in right now, I should wait until some of these people who are getting into the mobile homes park space fail, and have to sell, and that would be my opportunity."
Jeremiah Boucher: I think so. I think the flip side of that is inflation is here so rents will continue to increase. I don't know how this will shake out, but what I believe is that I'm not allocating a lot of the different funds that I have as investment funds and my personal funds - I'm not allocating a lot of that capital to these deals, because maybe there isn't a pure failure event, but really, my capital is tied up in an asset class that I'm just getting no return on, that I'm getting no distributions from.
I think that's most likely the case over time, is that probably a lot of these guys will be able to service their debt, but the actual equity, the return on equity in the asset - it's just going to stay flat for a long, long period of time.
Slocomb Reed: Thank you for the natural segue, Jeremiah. Where are you focused now? Where is it that you're looking to put your capital and your investors capital?
Jeremiah Boucher: As a value-add investor - I'm 40 years old and been in the industry here for 15-20 years - the velocity of money if capital is important. Just like you mentioned, Slocomb, you buy the asset, you make the improvements, and then you either refinance to pull your capital out or you sell the asset, you create your returns, and then therefore, buy more assets and do the same thing again. That's the same focus I have.
Slocomb Reed: Same value add focus. You've shifted into self-storage though?
Jeremiah Boucher: Yeah. Different asset class. About seven years ago I started looking at storage as an asset class. Once again, the reasons being, management intensive, a lot of very fragmented industries, where 70%-80%, depending on who tells you this statistic, are owned by one to three-unit owners, small mom-and-pop operators. It's a strong asset class in the sense of being recession-resistant, I believe. When things are bad, people are condensing their stuff, they're moving in with their families or friends. They're still consuming, we live in a consumer culture; Amazon's making it even easier than ever, and will continue to. And when things are good, people are buying more. They're buying more, but yet prices are raising for real estate, so it's harder and harder to figure out where you're going to put all the stuff that you're buying.
So in good or down markets, I believe storage is a nice hedge where people are going to need space at an affordable price. So what I did is I started really, really pushing in that space, allocating my team and my resources. One main reason as well is also the scale. I can actually manage it, I can build it, I can acquire it at a much more rapid pace, and I can get it financed easier. And then at that stage, I think I'll have a bigger pool of buyers that would want to buy it. That's really what pushed me in that direction.
Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. The vast majority of our listeners are involved in apartment investing, and apartment investing is the largest of the commercial real estate asset classes. It has become very popular in the last few years to transition from apartments into mobile home parks and self-storage, because people feel like returns are too compressed in apartments, there are too many operators, and it's too hard to get a viable offer accepted. So mobile home parks and self-storage are the two places that people are going. It sounds like you've transitioned mostly out of mobile home parks because you see more opportunity in self-storage.
Jeremiah Boucher: Well, I see that trend that you're talking about in apartments and single-family homes as well. But I think both asset classes work. I was at a conference in Scottsdale a couple of weeks ago. Blackstone, the head of their real estate department was there, and he said, "Our thesis right now for our largest real estate fund is beds and sheds." So they want short-term leases, they want a month to month or annual leases, because the whole game right now, especially when they're managing billions of dollars in assets, is to outpace inflation.
They want to be able to continue to raise rents at a pace where they're not tied up into a 10-year fixed retail or industrial lease. They want real returns, meaning they're outpacing inflation and being able to raise those rents. So I just wanted to bring up that point, but I think what you might have been alluding to is that a lot of these people that are leaving the apartment space and looking in these alternative spaces has increased the prices of these assets, the storage and manufactured housing.
When I got into storage, I was somewhat contrarian, in the sense of I was looking at suburban or rural markets where the big REITs weren't that interested, there still wasn't a lot of national buyers out there. I'm originally from New England, so I looked at markets that I knew growing up in that region out in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, what I found was that some of these areas were underserved, and I was starting to find that I could actually build or buy these assets at a very fair price. Sometimes it was under $50 a square foot. Now we're lucky if we can get it for $100 a square foot or less. But it made sense where the rents were enough that we could get a decent return and still be able to grow the asset. But I have to tell you, I looked in a lot of other markets where I bought large storage, 400-500 units up in Winnemucca, Nevada where I actually owned mobile home parks. It's a small town up near Reno. That was a challenge. So I had that for seven or eight years; there was a fixed amount of population, 20,000 people in this market, and there was maybe four of us that had larger storage facilities.
An older gentleman had land that he could build forever, and he kept building. So every time we filled up the town with more and more demand, he would just add more supply, and he'd never raised his rents. He was about $45 for a 10x10, which equates to $4 or $5 a square foot on your rental income. So no matter how hard I tried to improve the asset, where I paved it, painted it, landscaped it, light it, I did everything, put security, gated it, the whole thing, I'd fill it up, but then every time I wanted to raise rents, this guy would just add another building, and then it would depress all our rents around there.
So I just want to let people know that not every market is great. So the thing for me that I look at is, is there barriers to entry where you can't just build anywhere. In parts of Texas or parts of Oklahoma where you can buy a piece of land, you don't need a special use permit, and you can build storage anywhere.
That's a challenge, because more and more people are entering the space, and with expanded supply, that definitely depresses rates, so you have to be more competitive. I want people to know that, and know also that -- right now it's getting a lot more competitive, so you've got to be very careful with the markets that you want to invest in.
Slocomb Reed: Jeremiah, there's so many nuggets of wisdom in what you just said. There’s one thing that stood out to me in particular that I want to make sure the Best Ever listeners heard with me. It's also me extrapolating on some other interviews and conversations I've had with people in self-storage... Which hedge fund did you say was at the conference with you?
Jeremiah Boucher: Blackstone.
Slocomb Reed: Blackstone. Beds and sheds as a hedge against inflation. Again, it's March of 2022. Not knowing what the inflation forecast looks like, but knowing what's happened to us in the last couple of years with inflation... I know a lot of self-storage investors who haven't explained it unnecessarily this way, Jeremiah, but they say that one of the benefits of self-storage is that it survives rent increases better than almost any other asset class. Mobile home storage rent increases, especially when it's land-leased - let's not get into that can of worms... But when it comes to self-storage, rent increases tend to retain your tenant base through rent increases much better in self-storage. There's a lot to be said there in a high inflationary environment that we're experiencing right now. That as the cost of everything goes up, self-storage is likely well-positioned or best positioned to ride that storm, because of the nature of the tenant base, and the rent rates that the small incremental increases to the rent that come as a result of inflation are going to be much better weathered at those properties than at other places.
Jeremiah Boucher: That's right, Slocomb, but there's a flip side to that equation as well, and why real estate is so market specific. The asset class as a whole is, I believe, very durable. Yes, the elasticity of the rents is great, it's one of the main features. But the challenge right now is it's being over-developed in certain markets. There was a period before COVID hit and a few years before where real rents in certain regions were flat. In storage, when I was first starting and I was underwriting rents, there was really no increase. You could see $100 10x10 up in the Northeast stay the same. That rents would stay $100 for like seven years, just because what I said before - yeah, new people would bring on supply, and in markets where you're not getting heavy population growth, the rents just stayed flat. There are markets like Florida and Texas and out west where there's tons of population growth and right now, everybody's building, all the developers are getting into storage, it's all filling up, it's all gravy, and everyone's excited for the asset class.
But there will be a point when we hit critical mass and the thing swings in the other direction too; there's only so much storage you can rent. Now, who knows how much that is. But at that moment, that's when rents get flat, and then really, it's a commodity. Everyone has a box, and there are really not a whole lot of amenities with that box. People are looking at pricing and convenience. So if you're close to somebody and you have a better price, unless it's an absolute piece of crap, they're probably going to go with the better price and the one that's in their area. So people start a price war. So I just wanted you to--
Slocomb Reed: Jeremiah, to a point that you've already made in this conversation - if you want to get into self-storage, focus on barriers to entry in that market; make sure you're buying in a market where it is difficult to add supply, so that you're putting yourself in a position that rent rates can increase as demand increases on a limited supply.
Jeremiah Boucher: Spot on.
Slocomb Reed: Jeremiah, that's excellent.
Jeremiah Boucher: And you have to...
Slocomb Reed: Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round? No, you're not, that's fine. Finish that thought and then we'll jump in.
Jeremiah Boucher: It's just making sure you buy it with a margin of error, like what we were talking about with the mobile home parks; so you have that buffer there. If you're going to over-leverage 80% financing, you better really know where your real rents are in that market and make sure that there's a little bit of room there to drop those rents. I would recommend not overleveraging right now, and being conservative on your rental numbers, even though it's crazy. They've gone up 20% since COVID across our portfolio. I just don't want to keep thinking that I'm going to underwrite deals to raise another 20% next year because that's just not going to happen.
Slocomb Reed: So much good stuff in this interview, Jeremiah. Now, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Jeremiah Boucher: Sure, sure.
Slocomb Reed: What is the Best Ever book you recently read?
Jeremiah Boucher: I listen to Audible all the time. My favorite audible book --and this isn't even to do with real estate-- it's about Andre Agassi, it's called Open. It's a great listen. Any of the listeners out there, he's a guy from Vegas, he was a famous tennis player. It's really well written in the sense of when you're going out and you're really working hard, the inner battle with your demons, building a good team around you, people you can trust, just you’re your biggest opponent... I just love the way it's written. He gives back, he's such an altruistic guy. If you just want to hear a good story, it's a great book.
Slocomb Reed: What's your Best Ever way to give back?
Jeremiah Boucher: I actually opened... It's not a nonprofit yet, but I have a division of Patriot Holdings, my company, that is exclusively dedicated to land conservation. I'm a big outdoor guy, I love parks and trails. My mom, actually, she's full-time with me now and she runs this, she has an EPA and BLM background, so she's an environmentalist and a biologist. And really, our focus is to take land in the North-East, put it into conservation, help build parks and trails, and hopefully intertwine it into some of the towns or into some of the larger park systems that are already there.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. What is your Best Ever advice?
Jeremiah Boucher: Advice... Oh, Best Ever advice.
Slocomb Reed: I feel like this whole episode has been the Best Ever advice, especially the last 20 minutes.
Jeremiah Boucher: Oh good, man. So I wrote that book and that was a hell of a process, that Finding Your Edge. That really pushed me to figure out, "Okay, what did I learn from this business over the last 20 years?" I came up with six principles, and these are the things that I wanted to give, is what I picked up. What I learned over time is finding your value in the deal. What is it that you contribute? What is your competitive advantage in a space? The book is called Finding Your Edge. Like you, you have an edge in Cincinnati, and you find smaller apartments, and you like working with really rough assets and owners that don't want to deal with them.
So you're playing a game, you already have the deck stacked in your favor. That's what I want to do, too. I have an edge in New England, I know, I grew up paving and doing site work with my dad, I know the market, I know where people are going, I know the storage industry now because I've been in it for so long. I don't want to play on a level playing field with anyone. I grew up wrestling, so I know what I'm good at. I want to play to my strengths, not my weaknesses, just like in a fight.
So I just want people to evaluate what are your strengths in this industry? Is it finding the deal? Is it construction? Is it through operations? Is it in raising capital? Is it knowing your market better than anyone else? Knowing trends where developments going that other people don't know? That's the beauty of real estate; it's an inefficient market, so you've got to really know where to play on your strengths and focus on that rather than just doing what everyone else is doing and following what's fashionable, because you're always chasing something.
That's why I got into mobile home parks ahead of time, that's why I got into storage ahead of time, and I'm pushing and doing certain industrial projects now that I believe are going to be in more demand over the next few years. I believe I've got to play to what I'm good at.
Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Jeremiah, where can people get in touch with you?
Jeremiah Boucher: My company is patriotholdings.com and then I have a personal website. If you want to take a look at the book, jeremiahboucher.com. I don't know if it'll be in the comments here, but I'd love for your people to reach out to me. We do have real estate funds, so we're opening our third fund right now that develops storage. Anyone's welcome to reach out to us; it's only for accredited investors. Also, I'm happy to share anything I can with people, and hopefully, some people get something good out of the book if they read it.
Slocomb Reed: Jeremiah, thank you. Best Ever listeners, thank you as well. If you've gotten as much value out of this conversation as I have, please subscribe to our show, leave us a five-star review, and share this with a friend that you know that this conversation with Jeremiah will add value to. Thank you and have a Best Ever day.
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