Interview with Jeremiah Boucher of Patriot Holdings
Welcome 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 Jeremiah Boucher, the founder and CEO of Patriot Holdings. Jeremiah shares his story from starting out cold-calling and wholesaling mobile home parks to building his commercial real estate empire. Jeremiah also gives his advice about active mobile home park ownership along with several tips for limited partner passive mobile home park investors. Mr. Boucher shares his insights on what the “perfect” mobile home park looks like in his eyes and also touches on the stigma in manufactured housing. Jeremiah Boucher is passionate about the mobile home park industry and his passion shines through in this quick 20 minute episode.
Jeremiah is the founder and CEO of Patriot Holdings, which is an alternative commercial real estate investment firm based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Patriot Holdings focuses on cash flow producing properties, including: mobile home parks, self-storage facilities, and industrial properties. The firm has over 20 years of experience in these alternative investment classes and has built up a portfolio of over $90 million in assets under management.
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.
Are you getting value out of this show? If so, please head over to iTunes and leave the show a quick five-star review. I have a goal of hitting over 100 total 5-star reviews by the end of 2021, and it would mean the absolute world to me if you could help contribute to that. Thanks ahead of time for making my day with your five-star review of the show.
00:21 - Welcome to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast
01:18 - Jeremiah’s journey into mobile home park investing
04:07 - The toughest hurdle for Jeremiah Boucher
12:37 - The most important things passive investors should look out for
13:55 - What limited partners need to know before investing money
16:00 - Jeremiah’s perfect mobile home park
17:41 - Common mistakes new mobile home park operators make
18:50 - Patriot Holdings and what makes them different
22:40 - Getting ahold of Jeremiah Boucher and Patriot Holdings
23:13 - Conclusion
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Links & Mentions from This Episode:
Patriot Holdings website: https://patriotholdings.com/
Patriot Holdings Address: 4007 Dean Martin Dr, Las Vegas, Nevada 89103
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 and today we have an amazing guest in Mr. Jeremiah Boucher of Patriot Holdings. Before we dive in, I want to ask you a real quick favor. Would you mind please heading over to iTunes and rating this podcast with five stars? This helps us get more listeners and it means the absolute world to me. Thank you for making my day with that 5-star review of the show. All right let's dive in.
Jeremiah is the founder and CEO of Patriot Holdings. Patriot Holdings is an alternative commercial real estate investment firm based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. They focus on cash flow–producing properties, including mobile home parks (our favorite), self-storage facilities, and industrial park properties. The firm has over 20 years of experience in these alternative investment classes and has built a portfolio of over $90 million in assets under management. Jeremiah, welcome to the show.
Jeremiah: Thanks Andrew.
Andrew: Maybe you could start out by just telling us a little bit about your story and how you got into manufactured housing.
Jeremiah: I got in back in 2006. I quit college in Vegas, I was a floundering realtor, I was flipping houses. I was 25 at the time and decided that that wasn't for me. I couldn't differentiate myself from anyone else, so I read. If some of your listeners ever checked out Frank and Dave's original stuff, that 10-20-10 investing system and dove all in. I actually called Dave up and we connected on the phone. I was a young guy. I was hungry. I said, hey, what can I do to get into this business?
Ultimately, it was to go find a deal. I learned what a deal was and scoured the country, cold-calling owners, building my list, just grinding it out on the phone, and pretty much did that for almost 10 years for those guys. I worked with them, partnered with them. I signed them some deals, helping build up their fund. We had a good run together, got off on my own, and we did an equity swap. I bought my own properties in Vegas. They took all the stuff in the Midwest. At that point, I got thrown into the operations semi-full-time. I had about 500 pads around Nevada. I had to build a management team. I had to build an accounting team. I still kept up the prospecting and was juggling a million things at that time in 2016. Eventually, I got the portfolio turned around, raised the rents, put in 28 new homes, fill them all up with section 8 with rentals, sold a few. I did every cap ex project you can think of, turned that portfolio around, and sold in 2019. Exited that, had a really nice payday that catapulted me. In 2019, I was able to really invest in my management company. Over that time, started pivoting into some other asset classes. I need more full-time and really building up the private equity portion of the company.
Andrew: That's fantastic. For those listeners that have attended an MHU boot camp with Frank and Dave, Jeremiah is the mobile home park wholesaler that Frank references, where he is like, this guy, this cold caller out in Vegas, he just makes 200–300 phone calls a day. That is Jeremiah, so excited to have you on the show because you're a legend. Everybody hears about you and all of those boot camps.
Jeremiah: Yeah. No more wholesaling. Nobody’s calling me. I'm not assigning any deals to anybody.
Andrew: That's awesome. Jeremiah, what has been the toughest hurdle for you in the mobile home park business?
Jeremiah: I think the transition of the industry. There were the guys in before I got in. They were really successful because there was not a lot of competition. There's a big difference between 5-star parks, Sam Zell Equity Lifestyle parks, and the traditional trailer park. Over that time, for me it was learning the difference between the quality of the assets where in the beginning it was all about cash flow—what can I get, the best cap rate, the best return on investment, the lowest down payment, the best terms. Over time, I learned that that isn't necessarily what I focus on anymore. The asset itself, the underlying asset is really important because one deal can look like a great opportunity on paper and then it can suck the life off you, suck the life off the life of your investors, your money, your team, and you're so bogged down by the operations that that one deal alone, the opportunity cost took away from all the other deals that were out there that you could have pursued. I'm not saying when you start out that you go after 5-star parks. I'm just saying that you need to understand what to look for in the asset in terms of infrastructure, quality of residents, quality of homes, where you're not getting into a money pit, a time pit, or something that's going to detract from the bigger plan. For me, I've been transitioning where that's really about quality not quantity of deals. I focus more on higher quality parks, quality residents, quality homes with pride of ownership. I'm not afraid of private utilities. We have a lot of parks in the northeast, in New England where I'm originally from where there are wells, septics, treatment plants, very few park-owned homes, but I'm looking at quality right now. And somewhat scale. There has to be at least 50–80 pads to look at. We have to be generating about $20,000 a month per asset for it to really be worth the time and the energy to focus on. There’s got to be some component of a value add. Some type of improvement where I can fill some lots, submetered-utilities, I can raise rents, something in there over time after I improved the community, because there's a lot of bad press right now about manufactured housing, about operators that just abuse the asset. I see a lot of new people coming into the space. They’ll buy the property, jack the rates up $100–$200, give us a bad name, in return for not doing one thing to improve the community. Not paving the roads. No community amenities. Not even within market rates. We're really fighting that battle. But at the end of the day, it's an amazing asset class. I'm still 100% behind it. I don't think it's going anywhere. Affordable housing is the future. I think pride of ownership in mobile homes differentiate this asset class from apartments or other types of affordable housing. I am going to continue to stay in this space. I'm a lot more prudent, very picky about what I'm buying. I still have a good outlet for the future. But what we were talking about earlier is just really being careful with rent control, rent regulations, abiding by all the policies. These are things that I'm heavily invested in because I think this industry will be targeted. I'm not saying you shouldn't or should. I have no political view on it. I'm just saying that it's about being a responsible landlord and that's what we're focusing on.
Andrew: Yeah, you made several good points. One point I wanted to bring up is just the quality of these assets. Like you said, there's mobile home parks that have not been taken care of, lots of deferred maintenance. The properties that are harder to manage are those properties where they have an older home inventory and just they have a lot of (I would say) almost beyond recovery, deferred maintenance.
Jeremiah: For sure.
Andrew: It's sad but just a lot of mom-and-pops have just let these things deteriorate over time. I I think it's good that there's new money coming in, but like you said earlier, some of these newer operators that are just jacking up rents and not adding value for that are giving good operators like yourself and myself a bad rap. It gives us just another hurdle in addition to the stigma that we have to face.
Jeremiah: When investing in a park, you got a look at what is the long-term replacement plan? A lot of the parks were built in the 50s, 60s, and some early 70s. These infrastructures are outdated—water, sewer lines, pedestals with power, electrical grids, all of it. Eventually, there's going to be a need for capital improvements done.
Also, looking at assets, is this asset built in a way that I can continue to improve it, where I can exchange out the homes, where this sizable home I can get a 16x80 or at least a 14x50 or 60, where you can get in there and someone's going to want to live in that? Because people don't live in 400 square foot boxes. I don't believe in a tiny home movement. At least for permanent residence, I think it's more of a vacation type of fad.
There's a place for urban infill. You can buy a park with 12-foot wide or 10-foot wide homes in a very dense market, but that is purely a redevelopment play. You cannot look at that like you're going to replace that and put a brand new home, and find families that are going to be able to live there. I'm really looking at the size of the lots. If someone's getting into the business, they really underestimate, especially with a lot of big funds now in the business. They underestimate the amount of time, energy and capital it takes to replace homes. I mean that is the thing no one talks about in the industry. In an apartment, you can turn the unit, carpet, paint, even cabinets you just swap it out. In our industry, you're basically building a dealership, a sales business. There are challenges, getting the resident financed when you get the home, sell it to them, and them having the funds to buy the home. For me, I also have to look at the demographics of the area. I'm not looking for affluent areas but working class areas where there's a barrier to entering the housing costs. In New England or parts of upstate New York, the cost of housing is preventative on people buying a single family home. Right now in parts of New Hampshire we have parks. It’s $400,000 to $500,000 to buy a home. $150,000 mobile home is a gift. It's a great deal, and lot rents are $500 a month. The taxes alone on a home would be close to that. I'm not saying you need to be in markets like that, but looking at it at least if that's your plan to build out your park with more homes, which in turn increases your value, lowers the cap rate, give you high quality residents, and the appeal of the park is a lot better, you need to look at what is the competition out there in terms of what do people have available to them.
If that isn't the plan, that's okay. Do the rental parks where you help get people into a home and they come up with some type of program to eventually own their home, but know what you're getting into. Don't think you're going to buy 20 or 30 homes in a market—parts of Oklahoma or the Midwest—where you can get a house for sale under $150,000.
Andrew: That's a really good point. A friend of mine is a home builder—he's in the central Florida area—and his entry level homes right now are going for a minimum of $350,000. That delta is just so big right now that it's really preventative, like you're saying, for these lower income families. It's a real problem, and we're providing a good solution.
Jeremiah: Yeah. The problem right now is inventory. It’s also getting homes, that’s the challenge.
Andrew: Yeah, 8–10 months out with all the backlog, so it's a wild time. Let me ask you this Jeremiah. What are the most important things that passive investors—we’re talking about limited partners—need to look out for when investing into mobile home parks?
Jeremiah: If you're going to be an active investor—you’re going to be a general partner and you're going to control investment—you have to want to do it. You're going to want to manage. I don't recommend hiring a third party manager. People with third party managers out there, I have nothing against that, but it's just a tough ride.
Andrew: It’s different from regular apartment multi-family property management, for sure.
Jeremiah: It is. I wouldn't suggest hiring out that service unless you have a really, really large high quality park, but that's usually institutional grade and owned by large institutions. For a small investor, if they're buying a park of any size, I think that they need to want to manage it. They got to understand the business. They have to factor that in with everybody.
Andrew: Be ready. A lot of investors I think get into this thinking, this is going to be completely passive. They're paying a lot of rent, I don't have to do repairs and maintenance, which is not the case. This is an active business.
Jeremiah: That's right.
Andrew: Totally. For general partners that want to be the sole owner. What about for a limited partner that invests in a fund or in a syndication? What do you think they need to know before they allocate money?
Jeremiah: There's a lot of funds out there now and the space is really, really popular. I think the main thing for the limited partner to look at is, on a project level, on a deal level, look at the quality of the assets that they're buying. Really, you want to understand what the business plan is. Is it one and done? You buy a park, raise the rents really high, sell it. Over time, I don't think that's going to be sustainable.
The rents can only go so high. People can afford only so much. I would ask who's managing the asset, what's the team around it, because no matter how good the asset is, the investor or the general partner can ruin a good asset. That's really determined on what the operators’ experience is. How are they managing the asset? What is the quality of the assets? Then on the flip side of it, I think syndications 101 where people are evaluating how do I get paid as a limited partner? What I look at and passively invest in other sponsors or other deals, commercial deals, I want to know first how much money do they have into the investment? As long as they have skin in the game, some form of capital, some guarantee, that to me number one means that they're personally invested in the deal. The more money they have, the more I feel I'll invest my money alongside them.
Number two, I think I want to know how I get paid. What is the waterfall? How do I get paid back? That really comes down to do I get paid first or do I get paid at least a preferred return or some type of return before everyone else gets paid, the general partners? If that's the case, then I think our interests are aligned. Then from there it just comes down to whatever you're comfortable in, whatever region, whatever asset class, all that good stuff.
Andrew: Great tips. Let's go into the next piece here. What does the perfect mobile home park look like in your eyes and why?
Jeremiah: For me, I have a community in New Hampshire. It's 80 pads, big lots, not too many trees. Trees will be a huge no.
Andrew: Sewer lines.
Jeremiah: Yeah, and just the cost to keep them trimmed. Nice wide roads. Two-car parking at every home. You can fit a double wide. A good mix of newer homes. You got pride of ownership, working class people. We have an area in the front of the property where we have a park or we have an open playground area, a grassy area, good curb appeal, green, lush, good infrastructure. We’ve got PVC lines, we’ve got plastic sewer lines. It's just a really high quality park. We’re actually on septic systems out there. For that, it's a good system, it leeches well. There's no sewer costs, very minimal. Our water is city water, we'd like that. We're off the liability for that. No park-owned homes. There were 11 vacant lots. Those lots, that's our upside. Homes in the area, mobile homes will go for $110,000 to $150,000. That, for us, is a really ideal park. We got a good mix of seniors, families, kids. To me, that's really what I'm laser-focused on right now.
Andrew: My only question on that is are you interested in selling that park?
Jeremiah: No. That's a long term-hold.
Andrew: I don't blame you, man. That sounds like a nice one. What common mistakes do new mobile home park operators make?
Jeremiah: There's a lot.
Andrew: There's a lot.
Jeremiah: You see it every day. One, underwriting the deal poorly, including park-owned home income right away. Number one is getting duped by the seller that: (1) everyone's paying, (2) all the park-owned homes generated cash flow, and (3) it's easy to manage. Those things right there.
Andrew: Yeah. Those are the big three right there. We just had a park under contract and then a week before closing, we got the collection report, showing how much each tenant has owed. When we went under contract right before closing, the seller just walked away. It was like he just stopped pursuing collections and stopped knocking on doors. That's a really good piece of advice for other operators out there is don't just expect things to go business as usual. Make sure you're getting a collection report before you close on the asset. That's huge. Awesome Jeremiah. Would you mind sharing with us a little bit about Patriot Holdings and your value proposition? What makes you guys different?
Jeremiah: We’re a private equity firm, just like you guys. We raise funds. I put a lot of funds into deals. I have a management company. We self-manage pretty much all our assets. I pivoted in 2015–2016, because a lot of markets that have mobile homes, there's a lot of storage facilities as well. At that time, I started looking in New England at around some of our assets, and these were areas that were pretty rural. They were pretty small towns, looking at storage in these markets. Over time, I started to realize I like the complementary aspect of that asset class. I put a lot of effort and energy into building up my storage portfolio. Right now, we have a million square feet under management. We're building another 500,000 square feet throughout the northeast. For me, it was also finding a really good management partner, two partners actually. On a mobile home park and construction side, I got a great partner named Tim. On the other side, I have on the operations, a partner named Diane. Over that time, I needed a team. That was really important for me. I recommend anyone out there, understand the business. Do your deals. Obviously, you don't need a partner, but in the beginning, doing them on your own, learn it. But then over time, you got to leverage your time with good people around you. That was a game changer for me. Patriot Holdings, we focus now like you said in the beginning, is alternative commercial real estate assets, where we really like a commodity-based asset where there's multiple tenants. We’re just not one tenant. I've been burned a few times investing in office or retail, where there's a large tenant that really determines the value of your assets and your return on investment for all your investors. I don't like that type of pressure. I don't mind the added management component because if we have an asset where there's a high proposition to our customers, our residents, our tenants and something fails, or they don't pay basically we get them out and somebody squats right back in. Storage was that other business that complimented what we're already doing. A lot of our residents already needed it. We started to acquire assets that were under the radar, some from the big guys, under 30,000 square feet, under a couple of million dollars in tertiary markets or somewhat rural markets. We had the economics that made sense. The rent still made sense. There was a demand for the product. It was underdeveloped in those products in those areas, not a lot of supply, so we went in there and did what we do with parks. We paved it, painted it, put up fencing, put up cameras, put up lighting, put up good management. Not onsite management. Just putting management where someone was picking up the phone from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM and servicing our customers. Giving them the option to pay on the credit card, just the basics that storage should provide. We took that model and just ran with it. Right now, we have 44 assets in storage. It's the same model. We're actually pivoting also to small bay industrials. As storage gets saturated in certain markets, we like providing spaces for contractors to do business. Anywhere between 1000 and 5000 square feet that a bathroom, small office, a roll up door in the front, roll up door in the back. We're looking at existing industrial parks and developing small industrial parks.
Andrew: Wonderful, very cool. That is a unique dynamic that I don't think I've heard any other operators dabbling in. I think that definitely makes you guys different. It’s pretty cool. How can our listeners get a hold of you or Patriot Holdings if they would like to do so?
Jeremiah: Just patriotholdings.com. Nice and easy. If you're in Vegas, come visit us. We're at Caesars Palace, 4017 Dean Martins. Swing and say hello. We're there every weekday.
Andrew: Awesome. I love it. I'll make sure to put that website in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the show and adding value to the listeners. It was a pleasure. That's it for today folks. Thank you all so much for tuning in.
Jeremiah: Thanks for having me.