Interview with Denis Shapiro of SIH Capital Group
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Listen on Apple Podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/interview-with-denis-shapiro-of-sih-capital-group/id1520681893?i=1000548218653
Welcome back to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast, hosted by Andrew Keel. On this episode of the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast, Andrew talks with Denis Shapiro of SIH Capital Group. Denis has a unique background that has enabled him to build the skills necessary to be successful throughout his investing career. Today, Denis shares his background and previous experiences with Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast listeners. On this episode Denis Shapiro offers advice to limited partner investors as he discusses his thoughts on the economic future of the mobile home park industry, inflation and interest rates in the United States.
Denis began investing in real estate in 2012 when the market was just beginning to recover from the global financial crisis. He built a cash flowing portfolio with alternative assets such as notes, ATMs, mobile home parks, tech startups, and commercial properties. He co-founded an investment club for accredited investors in 2019. Following the success of his investor club, he launched SIH Capital Group. SIH provides accredited investors with a simplified strategy to invest for passive income.
Andrew Keel is the owner of Keel Team, LLC, a Top 100 Owner of Manufactured Housing Communities with over 2,000 lots under management. His team currently manages over 30 manufactured housing communities across more than ten states. His expertise is in turning around under-managed manufactured housing communities by utilizing proven systems to maximize the occupancy while reducing operating costs. He specializes in bringing in homes to fill vacant lots, implementing utility bill back programs, and improving overall management and operating efficiencies, all of which significantly boost the asset value and net operating income of the communities.
Andrew has been featured on some of the Top Podcasts in the manufactured housing space, click here to listen to his most recent interviews: https://www.keelteam.com/podcast-links. In order to successfully implement his management strategy Andrew's team usually moves on location during the first several months of ownership. Find out more about Andrew's story at AndrewKeel.com.
00:21 - Welcome to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast
01:32 - Denis Shapiro's background and journey
05:33 - Investing in a fund of fund with many different syndicators
08:10 - Buying a JV deal with someone he heard on a podcast
09:50 - Out-of-state trailer park operators
13:15 - Is a mobile home park fund a good option for passive investors?
14:45 - The process of starting your own accredited investor group
20:32 – General Partner and Limited Partner splits
22:24 - Inflation and the state of the economy in the United States
24:17 - Interest rates in the next five years
25:38 - The most important things Limited Partners need to look out for when investing in mobile home parks
27:56 - Questions to ask operators to qualify if they're going to be a good operator 29:00 - Denis’ perfect mobile home park
29:15 - SIH Capital Group
29:56 - Getting a hold of Denis
31:11 - Conclusion
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Links & Mentions from This Episode:
SIH Capital Group: https://sihcapitalgroup.com/
The Alternative Investment Almanac: Expert Insights on Building Personal Wealth in NonTraditional Ways, by Denis Shapiro
Keel Team's official website: https://www.keelteam.com/
Andrew Keel's official website: https://www.andrewkeel.com/
Andrew Keel LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewkeel
Andrew Keel Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PassiveMHPin...
Andrew Keel Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/passivemhpi...
Andrew: Welcome to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing podcast. This is your host, Andrew Keel. Today, we have an amazing guest in Mr. Denis Shapiro of SIH Capital Group. Before we dive in, I want to ask you a real quick favor. Would you mind please taking an extra 30 seconds and heading over to iTunes to rate this podcast with five stars? This helps us get more listeners and it means the absolute world to me, so thanks for making my day with that five-star review of the show. All right, let's dive in.
Denis began investing in real estate in 2012 when the market was just beginning to recover from the global financial crisis. He built a cash flowing portfolio, including many alternative assets such as notes, ATMs, ATM funds, mobile home parks, life insurance policies, tech startups, and industrial properties. He co-founded an investment club for accredited investors in 2019.
Following the success of his investor club, he launched SIH Capital Group. SIH provides accredited investors with a simplified strategy to invest for passive income. Denis, welcome to the show.
Denis: Thanks, Andrew, for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Andrew: Would you mind starting out by telling us a little about your story and how you ended up getting into manufactured housing investing?
Denis: Sure. My story starts off, I was in high school. My oldest brother gave me a copy of Rich Dad Poor Dad. I remember absolutely hating the book because I was 14, but I did get out of it. I need to stop buying assets.
I think that year I asked my older brother who I leaned on for financial advice throughout my life. I said, hey, what are you doing? He's like, well, mutual funds are the greatest things ever. That's what you should do. Bought it, hated the experience. That's going to be a noticeable theme in my financial career. The first of everything that I've done has always failed really greatly.
I bought a mutual fund. I wasn't happy. I think I made $7 for the whole year. That was the time we actually had to pay for trades, which was I remember, I had the Scottrade account. It was literally my trade with $7.
I went down the rabbit hole saying, you know what? I like the idea of buying stocks, but can I do it better than these mutual funds. I started going down the hole, Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch. That was where I thought my career was going. It was going towards being some kind of a stock manager.
I went to business school in New York City and then boom, straight into the global financial crisis. From there, I went and I couldn't get a job to the places I was interviewing for. Then the financial industry usually has a series of interviews before you get the job. During the process of that series, I would be interviewing and then they were like, oh, we're no longer hiring, oh, that division is closing because of the crisis.
I was approaching my senior year. I said, okay, I think I might have to pivot here a little bit. I went for my MBA. I got recruited for by the government while I was in my MBA program. The first paycheck I got, I was like, oh, wow, they're not only my employer, they're also my business partner because of the amount of taxes they're taking out.
I went home that day and googled, how do I pay less taxes? I got a whole bunch of semi-illegal results. I went back and said, how do I pay less taxes legally? Then 1 through 10 were all real estate. I then did the stupidest thing I could possibly imagine.
I went to my oldest brother and said, hey, you have a bunch of properties, do you want to sell me something? He was like, oh, yeah, here, take this one. It was probably his biggest headache. I cut my teeth on that single family rental. I'm actually really thankful. It was such a bad experience. I knew I didn't want to scale that experience. I went super passive after that.
That's when I got into ATM funds, life insurance policies, and then I discovered the world of syndications. I call it the gateway drug once you get into it. The whole world of private securities kind of opens up to you.
That's kind of how I got into mobile home parks. A couple of years back, I actually heard someone on a podcast reach out. They were doing JVs for mobile home parks. This was an out-of-state park. Again, probably a really bad investment. Now looking back at it, out-of-state, all the partners were out-of-state, a really heavy turn around. It was literally the Met Park, if you googled it. I just learned from being a part of the process
From there, I said, you know what? It might be a little bit better to not only do JVs but invest in more experienced operators and for my personal fund that I have, the income fund, which is a different story.
For my personal income fund, we invest in a fund operator that he vets the mobile home park operators. So I get exposure for my fund via that fund, and it's kind of progressed from that JV model.
Andrew: Very cool. Wow. That's a little bit different from other guests we've had on the show that are more directly investing. Maybe you can share a little bit more about that. You have a fund of funds, and then you're investing in a fund of many different syndicators. Is that right?
Denis: Yeah. When I pivoted my career, I still had a sizable equity portfolio, and I never really got rid of that. What I realized was that it was really difficult to get the yield that I was looking for from my equities. I tried every single strategy known to man.
I did the utilities, the blue chip stocks, the closed ended funds, and the MLPs. I never got the yield. I got a yield for one or two years. One downturn, all the yield went away. So when I was structuring my income fund, I wanted a perfect complement for someone that might still want a traditional portfolio, but it's just looking for capital preservation yield.
What I did is I launched an income fund. It's basically the product that I was looking for for 20 years. One of the ways I get that higher yield is by blending assets. I have apartment buildings and I also have mobile home parks. Mobile home parks traditionally have higher yield than traditional apartment buildings. I also have notes in it.
What it allows me to do is, I created the fund to avoid the investment drag that you'd get in other deals. For example, what an investment drag is, is if you invest in, let's say, a mobile home park. In year one, there are a lot of closing costs and there are a lot of costs associated with implementing the business plan that flow through the P&L. What that usually does is it lowers the cash on cash you'll get from year one.
Cash on cash is what you actually see, so sometimes investors get blinded by the preferred return being so high, but that's not what's actually going to be paid out. That drag of that first year of getting 2%, 3%, 4%, I wanted to overcome that. The way you overcome that is you have to blend it with assets that have higher cash on cash from day one, such as the ATM funds, such as mobile home parks, and such as notes.
Andrew: Very interesting. Okay. I'm curious about your first deal. The one that you said you bought is a JV with someone you heard on a podcast. Maybe can you walk us through that and give us a little more detail if you don't mind?
Denis: No, absolutely. It was a 52-lot park in Topeka, Kansas. The JV was small. It is a JV so it requires active involvement. It didn't matter what you put into the deal. You had to be actively involved. That active involvement usually ranged from at least getting on a call to maybe picking up a project or two, but there were three managing members, and then everybody else was just more or less an investor that had a slightly elevated role than your typical limited partnership.
It was definitely a unique experience. The underwriting of the deal, because it was such a heavy value add, if it worked, it was going to be extremely successful. But there were just certain variables that were there that I probably, today, would never invest in that type of deal. The first one is really being that the operators were all out-of-state.
There was such property manager turnover. I feel like that would never have been the case if they were in state. It was an interesting deal. Usually on a lot of my syndications, sometimes I'll invest $50,000–$100,000 and you walk away with 2%–4% of the deal at most. With a JV and it's a small enough JV, you could get a sizable chunk of equity.
I think between me and my investment club, I owned about 20% of that deal. Definitely, the risk reward was favorable, but the individual specifics of that deal probably didn't line up too well now, thinking about it in hindsight.
Andrew: Let's try to add value to the listeners and help them learn some of the things you maybe would have done differently. Tell me about those out-of-state operators. Was it just because they were out-of-state or did they have a track record of other mobile home parks that they had managed and turned around in the past? Maybe tell us what you would have done differently.
Denis: Sure. They actually did have a really good track record. They've done some successful deals in the Carolinas. Actually, I think every single one of their parks except for this one was actually, I would say highly successful. I think it was just better markets.
There's a different tune buying a park in Topeka, Kansas, where it's flat population growth. Then of course, Covid did not help when you're dealing with a turnaround that requires turnover of units. So if you're dealing with tenant turnover and you can't actually evict them, there is definitely a hindrance. Almost, it kept feeling they were just around the corner of turning the property and turning the property, and then they will have to start over with a new property manager.
I think that's my big advice. The market is especially important when you are dealing with out-of-state operators. They might have a track record in a specific market. If that market is not as, I guess, warm or attractive as the markets that they are in, their track record becomes a little misleading.
Andrew: The operators you invested with, you said they had a track record mainly in the Carolinas, or were they outside of the East Coast besides this new asset?
Denis: They had some in Texas as well. They had some of the coast. Honestly, I have nothing but respect for them, even though the deal wasn't what I would label as a home run. I think I walked away with a 5% annual return.
I didn't lose my money. The communication level was excellent. I saw that they were dealing with a lot of headaches that I didn't have to deal with, which was really nice. Literally, they went through six property managers. I think the last straw was one of the first property managers that got fired as being a property manager got evicted from the property and one of his last goodbyes was that he was flushing Cheeto bags that were not even opened. He was flushing them right down the thing and clogged up the whole sewer for the entire thing. It was a very low quality group of tenants. I think that also is a thing.
If it was probably a class A park, that was maybe 55 and over and highly stabilized, they probably would have done fine managing it. But being such a heavy value add, my piece of advice is the heavier the value add, the closer you want your operators to be there.
Andrew: Wow. That's interesting because I would say a lot of operators, especially nowadays, are not in the area where they're buying parks. Our parks are not where we live. I live in Orlando, Florida and we buy parks all over the Midwest. We do have someone move on site in the beginning to take over ownership and set up our new systems, but having someone there that is competent, I think, is important. In some markets, it's easier than others. I do think it's heavily market-specific.
Very cool. Thanks for sharing that with us. Can you tell me a little bit about the fund that you invested in? Mobile home park fund that invest in other operators, and why do you think that's a good option for passive investors?
Denis: I won't mention any names or anything because I'm not soliciting for them or for my fund, whatever it is. They have a really good track record. I network with a lot of limited partners because I'm in a lot of different asset classes. I'm not just in mobile home parks or self storages.
Actually my core competency is more or less apartment buildings, but I wanted that mobile home park exposure. What I realized is that I couldn't be on 10 JVs to give my fund diversification into mobile home parks because just timewise, even though it was limited, it still would have required more time than I could. I wanted something that my fund could be a limited partner on.
I was leaning on the expertise of that fund operator who only deals with mobile home parks, and I think they deal with self storage. The main thing was, every time I talked to anybody in my network that's invested with them, it was just the greatest. They had nothing but great things to say.
I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is that reputation. I think they were on their second or third fund by then and they were highly successful with the first two funds. Their values aligned really well with our values, so it was a good fit.
Andrew: Tell me that. You said you have a network of passive investors. I know you started your own accredited investor group. I think that's super valuable, to be able to get referrals, and talk about operators and how they performed or didn't perform, et cetera. Maybe you can share a little bit of light on that. Are there Facebook groups? Are there LinkedIn groups? What do you think a passive investor should go seek out to try to find that network?
Denis: That's a great question. I'm a firm believer. If you're not willing to network when you're investing in private securities, you probably are gambling more than you should be. At the end of the day, a lot of these operators—myself included—if someone asks me what kind of fund to operate, I'm going to say I'm a good operator. Who says bad things about themselves?
A lot of times, the operator world is kind of like a marketing shell game where everybody says they're the best operator. Where you get real unbiased information from is from other investors who invested in that deal. The way I built up my network—this took years, it took a lot of calls, and I'm a firm believer of quarterly calls on my network—is that I started off on LinkedIn. You just add the words investor to your actual group.
A lot of people are scared to put that there because if you're a software developer and you put investor, it diminishes your value as a software developer. But if you're going to be a passive investor, you need to put that there. What ends up happening is, then you start getting bombarded with more or less solicitations and semi-spam. Like, oh, I see you're an investor, you might be interested in our deal or, hey, we're a mortgage broker, let's touch base.
Those conversations aren't really too beneficial. What they do allow you to do is if you participate in enough of them when you're new, you start learning the language of commercial real estate. Commercial real estate has its own special group of languages. The best part is if you learn the language of apartment buildings, that transfers over really well to self storage, and that can transfer really well into mobile home parks because the same terms like cap rates, NOI. You got those nuances with mobile home parks. You need to know if it's park-owned homes or tenant-owned homes, but more or less the language is very transferable.
What I recommend is step one, add the fact that you're actually invested. The more specific, the better. If you're a real estate investor or a tech startup investor, just put it there. Two, start taking the calls when you don't know the language. Once you start picking up the language, you can lower the frequency of those calls because you're going to realize there's really no value of you speaking to a mortgage broker when you're first starting out or whatever the case is.
Then the next thing, once you have that in place and you actually know the language, now, you should go to conferences or RIAs. You want to go to conferences, where the speakers are the people that you'd be interested in investing with.
For example, if you're interested in investing in mobile home parks, you should be going to the mobile home park conference, where there are reputable mobile home park operators as the presenters. You don't want to go to a wholesaling conference or a flipper conference. You want to go specifically what you're trying to learn at.
Once you're there, you want to actually network with a few people. You don't need many. You need five or six quality people. The reason why you can't skip and go directly to that step is because if you go to a conference or a RIA and you don't know the language, you're going to come off as you're asking for help versus you're trying to actually network with peers.
Learning that language is super, super critical. Once you actually get to the conferences, network with a few people. And then this is the key. After the event, don't just say, hey, let's stay in touch. Say, hey, we're in December, how's January 5th? Let's throw something in the calendar. If it doesn't work, when it gets closer to the calendar, we'll figure it out. Then get on a quarterly call.
During those calls, that's when you're going to really develop your networking skills, Hey, who are you investing in? What areas? And you're going to pick up so many different things. As a single investor, you can only do so much. Once you have a network of 5, that network of 5 becomes 25 because those 5 want to introduce you to another 5. It becomes so powerful.
You'll figure out who the best operators are. Then it comes to a point where you're not the one that's going out searching for operators. You're just going to be hearing the same names over and over, the ones that are killing it, that are crushing it. You're going to hear those names, and you're going to know who to reach out for, and everything else is going to be more or less a waste of time.
Andrew: Wow, that was a lot of good information right there. I want to go back. You said something about going to these conferences and just trying to find five or six people, five or six quality investors. Then one thing you said that really struck a chord with me, because I've been building up a sales team of cold callers overseas, and when they start cold calling mobile home park owners, if they don't know the terminology, the mobile home park owners just disqualify them right away, and just shut down and say, no, we're not going to sell to you, thanks anyways for calling, and they hang up.
They have to know the terminology. They have to know the park-owned home, tenant-owned home, the utilities, setups. They have to know what questions to ask so they sound like they know what they're talking about, so I love your way of doing that. Before you go to a conference, study these things, get on some phone calls, and understand that language. That's a really good tip. Then also, I like how you find operators. That was going to be one of my questions. Speakers at asset class–specific conferences, that was great.
Let me ask you about the splits. I know you come from the multifamily apartment space, where splits for GPs and LPs are a whole lot different than the way they are in the mobile home park space. Maybe you can share some light on that and how you got comfortable with the new mobile home park splits.
Denis: Traditionally, the apartment building world is a 70/30. But with the JV that I did, I'm not 100% sure of the other deals because the fund that I'm in actually has a very similar split to what I would see in the apartment building world, but I remember on the JV deal, it was a 60/40 split. The reason why it was so much higher was because it was a huge value add split. The main thing is the cost of the park was actually pretty small. There really wasn't much equity there in the first place.
I was completely okay with that because I saw the work that was being done on it. I thought it was worth the 40%. If the deal was successful, the portion of equity that I still maintained would have made up for the higher than usual equity that we would give up.
Andrew: I still think 60/40 is good for the LP. I think that's still a reasonable split. I know a lot of funds are doing 50/50 right now with mobile home parks because of just that, because it's a lot more work, because there's not just a third-party property management company you can hire and just put them in charge.
There are a lot of stories on this podcast and others about bad third-party property managers in the mobile home park space. For operators, they have to create their own property management company. It's a lot more work. It's a little bit different from multifamily.
Let's talk about inflation and where the economy is at right now. Obviously, a lot of people talk about real estate being a hedge for that. What do you think about the direction of where the economy's going? Do you feel safe investing in mobile home parks and the other asset classes you're in?
Denis: I would say two things to that. One, I think the potential to get long-term debt right now is probably the best tool you can have to fight inflation. I know we are currently general partnering on apartment building and we're looking at 10 years at 3.3%. If the inflation rate stays at 5%–6%, in theory, your apartment building is getting cheaper by 2%–3% every single year, and that's huge. On top of that, we could still pass on the rent cost.
I know it's similar to a mobile home park, but I know mobile home parks tend to be more mom-and-pop sellers. As long as you're structuring it the right way, I would be a little bit wary of getting into investments right now where it's like a bridge debt, where you're penciling out a short number of what the interest rate is going to be in 18–24 months. I've never seen so much uncertainty that I have right now in terms of my conversations with real estate investors.
From a passive investor perspective, just whatever deal that you're thinking of investing in, look at that debt. The debt has never been more important than it is today. In 3–4 years, you're going to look back at it. You're not going to regret investing in the right. I would say don't even look at the deal. Look at the debt. If the debt doesn't match what you think is going to be happening in the inflation, there will be a deal that will match it.
Andrew: That's great advice. Wow. Yeah. Look at the debt. What do you think about interest rates? What do you think they're going to be in five years?
Denis: I was sure that they were going up. Now you have that whole new wave. You have the Omicron. Since I invest in stocks, I remember the early days of Covid and how the market reacted. It's eerily similar to that, the first couple of days. The wage, it kind of jumps here and there and then all of a sudden, the jumps get more aggressive.
It feels very similar and the way that the news portrays a confirmed case and how much emphasis it's given to that one confirmed case, I'm not so sure. It seemed the Fed just announced they were going to ease the QE and everything like that, and then all of a sudden this variant came up. I don't think anybody has a crystal ball of where the rates are going to be in five years because we're going to get a new type of variant where scientists come and raise the alarm every 6–9 months and with a potential lockdown. How could the Fed raise if in two months we're going to be in a lockdown?
Andrew: That's a really good point. Who knows how many variants are going to come out of this? Let me ask you this. What are the most important things passive investors need to look out for when investing into mobile home parks?
Denis: I would definitely say the operator and what is the collective body of knowledge of your network saying about that operator. The passive investment world is very small. Within the six degrees, if I talk to six different real estate investors, out of those six investors, we probably have invested with 80% of operators out there.
If you build out your network and as long as you have, hey, how was the reporting? How was this? Just treat it, I would say, like a job. I always say that to be passive you have to be actively passive to the point where you wire the money, because once you wire that money, you are 100% passive.
Until the point that you are wiring the money, you should be doing your homework. You should be doing the due diligence. You should be asking questions. You should be, how is the operator responding to you?
I find that operators respond to you the quickest before you send the money in. I remember so many operators I've removed from my list because I would look at their debt. I would literally respond with 10 questions, hey, I've noticed this, I noticed that, I noticed that, and then it goes crickets, because some operators do not want that type of investor. I'm okay with that. I just don't want to be partnering with that type of operator.
Notice the communication. It's really subtle. Are they responding to you in a timely manner? Are they being courteous to you? Do they treat your $50,000 with respect? Some operators don't, because they've moved on to the point where unless you're writing them a $500,000 check, you're not really worth their time. So how are they treating the $50,000 investor?
All of these things are more or less judgment calls, and you need to be able to talk to multiple operators and get that sense. The main thing is, lean on your network. If you've invested your time in that network, that network will steer you the right way.
Andrew: What's your number one question to ask operators that you feel is the most telling if they're going to be a good operator or not?
Denis: That's a good question. I think the cliche one is to tell me about your worst-performing deal. To tell you the truth, I would like to have a full conversation. Sometimes, I don't ask that question at all. Then sometimes, I'll just get a sense in my career with the government.
I interviewed about 10,000 people. Within a 10- to 15-minute conversation, either my red flags are up or they're not. If they are, then one question is not going to change anything. It's just general sense. Safeguard your money but be open to investing. That's what I'll say.
Andrew: That's a great response. Let me ask you this. What does the perfect mobile home park look like in your eyes, and why?
Denis: I would say, majority tenant-owned homes, public, local operator, and the numbers still work. That's it.
Andrew: Short and sweet. I like it. Maybe tell us a little bit about SIH Capital Group. What's your value proposition? What makes you guys different?
Denis: Our fund is income-focused. It's income-focused and capital preservation. We pay 7% from day one only to accredited investors. There is no backend split. That's part of the simplicity of it. We also have very low minimums of only $10,000.
It's kind of like a REIT that's not publicly traded. We have exposure right now to about 93 properties. It's going to be 96 properties by the end of the month. It's a pretty diversified pool of investments that are paying that full 7% from day one.
Andrew: That's wonderful. How can our listeners get a hold of you if they'd like to do so, Denis?
Denis: If you go to my website, sihcapitalgroup.com, I wrote a book on alternative investments including mobile home parks. There's a chapter on mobile home parks. My book is structured in all these different alternative investments that real estate investors tend to come across. You'll find out about apartment building, self storage, mobile home parks, ATM funds, life insurance policies.
What I did is, I wanted to create a book where it gives a high-level introduction to the asset class, and then it gets into Q&As with two expert operators in that space. It's the same Q&As for the mobile home park guys and the self-storage guys. You could see how the different investors, different operators are answering the exact same question.
The book is The Alternative Investment Almanac: Expert Insights on Building Personal Wealth in Non-Traditional Ways. That can be found on Amazon. My website is sihcapitalgroup.com. If you go on my website, there are two bridge versions of my book. There's a bridge version of the content and then there's a bridge version of the Q&A. If you sign up to my email list, you could get both. That's really the best way to reach out to me.
Andrew: Awesome. We'll make sure to check out that book. That sounds like a good one. That's it for today, folks. Denis, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you.
Denis: Great being here. Thank you for having me.
Andrew: Thanks. Thanks for tuning in everybody.