In real estate, paving the road to success is much easier when you have someone trustworthy by your side. Better yet, a whole team. Founder and Managing Partner of 4M Capital, LLC, Maureen Miles, tells her unconventional story on how she got started in a male-dominated industry and worked her way to the top. She gives a reminder that you can never go wrong investing in a trustworthy team as a core strategy for success. Having never missed an investor report and payment, Maureen explains how company culture can make this happen.
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Maureen Miles On Securing Your Success With The Right Team
I’m excited to have with us Maureen Miles. She’s well known for being a leading real estate expert, speaker and entrepreneur. She’s completed over $250 million in transactions, raised over $65 million in private equity and purchased over 3,000 multifamily units. She is crushing it. She’s also the founder and owner of an Atlanta based property management company and the founder/owner of a southeast based construction company. She’s created all these companies that they’re fully integrated for her multifamilies.
Her diverse background and experience include everything from being a licensed realtor to a licensed general contractor. She has extensive experience in renovation, capital improvements, insurance, tax and title work. She applies this exceptionally diverse real estate experience along with her network engineering background to develop, renovate, manage and improve all types of commercial and residential investment properties. She’s amazing. She’s busy. I’m glad she’s taking time out of her busy schedule to be with us. Welcome, Maureen.
Thank you for having me, Monick.
It is my pleasure. In this show my guests share their stories about real estate investing. Tell us how did you get involved in real estate investing, how did you start?
If you go way back, I was a teenager and somebody was flipping a house next to my grandfather’s and I thought it was the coolest thing. They were getting in trouble from the city for leaving the job site a mess. I was a grunt worker. I’d go around, clean up the job site after everybody left and they pay me $10 an hour, probably $5 at the time. My first thing is renovation and understanding real estate a little bit. This particular guy, he also had a couple of multifamilies. They were smaller, three-unit deals. My first thing, “This is a thing. That’s neat.” He collected rent. I understood the basic concept of it.
I also learned how to do renovations. Eventually, I was helping them install kitchens and I learned how to sheetrock and even helping with roofing jobs. I would do that during the summer. I understand all the concepts and I’ve probably touched everything to do with it at one point or another. I did that as a teenager, on and off. When my husband and I got married, we bought our first house. We bought a fixer-upper. We went ahead and fixed it up slowly while we lived in it.
Fast forward a few years, I had my corporate job, my husband had his job. We didn’t have the greatest retirement. We started this multifamily thing, if we’re able to buy some smaller multis, we can pay it off over the years. By the time we’re ready to retire, there would be nestings for us and produce income. That’s where it came from. At that point, which is at the height of the market in ‘06, we started buying small multis in Connecticut. We would buy them and fix them up. We’d rent them or flip them, depending on how the renovation went, how we felt about that particular property. We did that for a few years. I knew that I was good at it. I understood it. I was good at the cost of renovating them and things like that.You can’t control the market. You can only have expectations. Click To Tweet
Also, I learned how to lease. I remember being stressed out trying to reach my first unit and sell my first unit. I did everything myself while I worked my full-time job. As far as leasing, we didn’t have a third-party management company at the time. I got to a point where I needed about 30 units we were managing and I would turn into a pumpkin in the afternoon and work my network engineering job. I was in charge of Asia divisions. I had to work in Asia hours. I was doing real estate during the day and then going over to my corporate job at night. I hit a wall. I realized that I couldn’t get more units with the time I had. I knew that the only way to escape my corporate job was to get more units. I hit a ceiling. I had to make a choice and I did eventually. A package came at my job. I ended up leaving my corporate job and devoting full-time to real estate investing and knowing I wanted to go after the hundred-plus unit sized properties. That’s how I got started and how I got started in the larger properties.
It came next door to you. You started as a teenager getting into construction, which is not typical for a girl. You started to build these 30 units and then decided, “I want to jump big.” What happened for you in 2008, 2009, during the dip? How did you get to where you are?
During the dip I was okay. I still have two of the properties that I bought back then. Connecticut still never came out of that, screaming out of the recession like the whole of the United States. It seems like it’s still a funky market. I never lost or had any problems because I knew I had to buy on cashflow. If they didn’t produce cashflow when I bought them, I couldn’t own them. At that time, a lot of people were thinking that things keep increasing and appreciation was what they were buying for. That’s a roll of the dice, as far as I’m concerned because you can’t control the market. You can have expectations that things look good but ultimately if that thing isn’t producing cashflow and you’re underwater when you purchase it, you can be putting yourself in a tough situation.
That was what saved me. I never bought a property that didn’t cashflow at the time of purchase. Some of them needed renovation and they were empty but I knew that as soon as they were full they would produce cashflow. We had a lot that needed some sweat equity. A lot of those were the ones that we purchased. The pushing we’re able to create at the time of purchasing. After renovation gave us that time. We were never underwater with the property or ever had anything producing negative cashflow.
I love that because there are two things that are important to highlight. First, cash is king, cash is queen. I’m always about buying for cashflow too. Some people are doing this appreciation game but that feels speculative to me and more like gambling.
It’s a hot potato game.
It’s definitely all about cashflow too. The other thing that’s interesting that is important to point out because people go, “What’s going to happen with the market with real estate? Are we due for this crash?” It’s important to highlight that it’s not one market. Every market, every submarket has its own market cycle and different asset classes of their own market cycles. Certain places could be hot and expensive and other places like where you were investing in Connecticut might have been flat or might even not have come out of the slump that it was in before. People shouldn’t look at the US or the whole country as one market but look at specific markets and submarkets. There are always opportunities to be found because it’s not this one big uber market like the stock market.
It’s important to know your market and the market you’re investing in because even though somebody in California has one situation, if you’re in Florida or Ohio, it’s going to be different. There are different stages of the market cycles in these different areas. What I always say is, “You don’t create the market, you work within the market.” You may have these fundamentals of properties you look for and you might not be in the correct market to execute on those. You have to know that particular market you’re in and what’s going on and what’s happening there.
You’re doing large multifamily. You’re in Connecticut and I’m more in the southeast. What markets are you in? What do you like about them?
The Atlanta MSA and then we’re also in Indiana as well. We are going into Tennessee. We have some smaller projects in Tennessee. I’m looking to get into bigger properties in Tennessee as well. Why I like them is because the jobs are coming in. As long as the jobs are still coming into that market, you’re good. There’s a lot of runway in those markets as well. You want to be sure that what you’re buying, that the rent versus the clause makes sense and that you’re able to cashflow from day one.
As much fun this business is, I tell people, “We don’t want to buy for properties that are going to break even.” Sometimes the brokers will tell you great stories about the potential but it’s like, “That’s great but I need a property that’s going to produce now or there’s a clear path, there’s a clear reason.” If they said there was a fire so they’re down on occupancy, that makes sense. We could fix the building and we can move on and it will create occupancy and generate cashflow. You have to be careful at the height of the market. Some of these stories that people come up with, with what can happen and what you’re buying. You have to know your numbers, understand what’s happening in that market and look for those signs and that’s part of the jobs is continuing to come into the market.
I find that we learned so much more when things don’t go well than we do when they’re smooth sailing. A question that I ask all of my guests is, what was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
We finished a giant renovation plan and going into it initially, we were using a property management company. This is one of the reasons that we started our own. They were going to handle a lot of the capital, but then when I zoned in on what they were doing, I should say I let go a little more than what I should have. I should have stayed more involved on that job. I ended up not only firing the property management company but then firing four GCs after that, which also led to creating my own construction company. My tip for people or what to watch out for is to be tuned in. Don’t rely on that third-party contract or that third-party property management company. Make sure there’s somebody on your team that you trust that has boots on the ground. I ended up spending a ton of time in Georgia. We got the property and the project completed and done but it’s only because I had this other knowledge I could rely on. We ended up pulling a bunch of people from Connecticut, a bunch of my family members. My daughter was running that project for a little while. It was a beast to take on and we were able to do it but for somebody new, it could have taken them out of the game. Make sure you understand the full scope of what’s happening and don’t rely on somebody else.
One of the main things that I heard from you and it was a mistake that we’ve had is having trusted boots on the ground. They will make or break your deal, especially your property managers.
Make sure you have a backup. It does come down to your property manager at any location. You could take a great property and you put the wrong property manager in there and that property will run terrible or you can take a bad property and put the right manager in there and it will be awesome. It comes down to the people running your portfolio.You don't create the market. You work within the model. Click To Tweet
On the flip side, what are you most proud of?
Getting this far and our ability to adapt. I have some great people I work with. I never would have been able to do this myself. Not only my family pitching in when we needed them too but also the awesome people I work with. I never would have grown this far by myself. I am proud that I was able to get such a great team together and I have these awesome people that are willing to work with me on day-to-day. We all push each other further. I’m also proud of the fact that we’ve never missed an investor payment and been late with a distribution, or fell short of a projection on anything. We have some excellent team members that make sure reports always go out on time that the money is always correct as far as distributions. We take that seriously. We understand the weight that we take on with investors. I know a lot of the investors personally. When I first started, I didn’t have money. My money is not from friends and family, just to let anybody know.
Anybody could do this if you are tenacious enough and you’re willing to go out and get it. I understand, a lot of our investors worked for 40 years as an ambulance driver, they were a police officer. They were teachers, or if you can’t take that lightly when investors trust you with their retirement or with their kids’ college money. I know that. My team members know that and we take that seriously. Not every operator necessarily does. You have to be careful. I’m sure the investors trust you. They don’t know so much about real estate. They’re relying on you. I’m proud of the fact that we’re able to get good deals that have always performed.
To what do you attribute your success?
One of the things growing up and some of my team laugh about me, I had a million jobs. I’ve done tax returns. I’ve done renovation things. I’ve managed pet stores. I’ve had the craziest background of almost any job you could imagine. It’s that broad knowledge and laugh sometimes that my whole life’s journey prepared me for what I do because I can pull from different experiences from different jobs. Title searches, I used to work for a company that did that. I attribute that. We don’t know the meaning of quit or tap out. Some of these renovations, some of these repositioning, they get tough.
When you’re working with properties that were built in the ‘70s or ‘80s, you run into things that are unexpected and you don’t know what to do or how to solve that issue. Being tenacious, having a great network of people as well with vast experience, you don’t have to know everything yourself but you have to know who to call. Be able to think out of the box and have a few plans. We always have plan A through Z before I even get started. That comes from the network engineering background where we know how to summarize, break things down, what’s important, what’s not important. If this doesn’t work, we already have a plan for what’s going to work next. It’s that troubleshooting ability that made us successful as well.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field? What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
If there’s a female starting out in this field, it is a male-dominated field, but I look at that as an advantage to us. I stand out. I’m a little bit more memorable when I show up. I’m not your average guy in a Gracie, as they call them sometimes. You are a little memorable. Have fun. It’s not always fun but you have to keep things light. People want to work with people that they enjoy working with. Always keep that in mind.
Sometimes people are competitive against the brokers or the other owners and its win-loss and they like to play serious hardball. It can be win-win and trying to both look out. You want to sell your property, I want to buy your property. Let’s come to an agreement and taking that approach as opposed to going in with full guns blazing and say, “How can I get the last penny out of this seller?” Taking that approach, I don’t think that works well. My advice is to try to understand what the other side wants and what you want and how can we come to an agreement. It doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser. Everybody can get what they want out of it.
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
Trust your gut more. Not hold on to people that you know shouldn’t be part of your team. Be careful who you associate with. There are people I knew I was going to have to let them go and I probably let them hang around a little bit longer or gave them maybe a few more chances. It’s harder to pick up the pieces after them. It erodes your whole team’s confidence sometimes and you want to be careful about your whole team. You have to make sure that the culture is correct. Pay attention to that. Have your pulse on the culture of your company, which is important.
I heard you say this repeatedly, the importance of your team and having the right people on the bus and the right positions make a big difference. Before we get into our Trinity, what’s the best way for people to connect with you?
The best way to connect is through our website which is www.4MREI.com.
It’s time for your Trinity. What is your one brag? What are you celebrating?
One thing we’re celebrating is our best year ever. In 2019, we were able to acquire about 1,400 units and we sold about 1,100 units. My acquisitions director, I brought him into the company as a partner and it’s through his hard work we’re able to do a lot of that. Having a great team and kicking butt. We worked a lot and it paid off. We love what we do and we’re happy for that success.Pay attention to the culture of your company, and take care of your whole team. Click To Tweet
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
I’m grateful for having the opportunity to do what I do. I do speak at events sometimes. I don’t sell anything. I don’t do coaching myself. I don’t have any seminars or anything like that. I love giving back and I’m grateful that I can shine the light on the path for others to know. They don’t teach this stuff in school. You don’t learn this. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing until I was into my 30s that you can buy apartment complexes and pull investors in and do what they call syndication. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to provide value. I absolutely love what I’m doing and I’m grateful that I get to do it.
Last but not least, what’s one desire?
We’re trying to do more. We’re spending a lot of time structuring our company. My desire is to have things set up to run without me. Not that I want to come on to business but I want to know that my team, my people, my investors, everybody is safe, even if something was to happen to me. I have no desire. I’m retiring for a long time. We’ve already started an EOS process and doing some other things, bringing in some other team members to make sure that it can run even if I’m not the sole person running it. I’ll sleep much better at night once all that is in place.
So shall your desire be or so much better than you can imagine.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
Thank you so much for coming on. What’s the best way for people to connect with you?
That would be through the website, www.4MREI.com.
You can contact Maureen in there, 4MREI.com. You can contact me, get in touch at REIGoddesses.com. Find out about our Wealth Through Real Estate event that’s happening April 17th to 19th in Los Angeles. You can connect with amazing women who are crushing it in real estate there. As well, join our investor group, Real Estate Investor Goddess Investor Club, where you can find out about passive investing opportunities. Go to the website and join our community of women from all over the country and all over the world who are investing in real estate and creating passive income streams. Thank you and join us next episode for another Real Estate Investor Goddesses episode.
- Maureen Miles
- Wealth Through Real Estate – Event
- Real Estate Investor Goddess Investor Club
About Maureen Miles
Maureen Miles is well known for being a leading real estate expert, speaker, and entrepreneur. In the last 5 years Maureen has completed over 250M in transactions, raised over 65M in private equity and purchased over 3000 multifamily units. Maureen is also the founder/owner of an Atlanta based property management company, and the founder/owner of a southeast based construction company.
Her diverse background and experience include everything from a licensed Realtor to a licensed General Contractor. She also has extensive experience in renovation / capital improvements, insurance, and tax and title work.
Applying her exceptionally diverse real estate experience along with her network engineering background, Maureen has helped to develop, renovate, manage, and improve all types of commercial and residential investment properties, including single family, small multifamily, and large apartment communities.