Interview with Jon Carcone of 4 Brothers Commercial
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 one of his current business partners; Jon Carcone of 4 Brothers Commercial. Jon brings his own flavor and sense of humor to the episode as they talk about Jon’s journey into mobile home parks and real estate as a whole. Jon discusses what his perfect mobile home park looks like, and what he thinks the future of the industry looks like.
Jon Carcone attended Wake Forest University and majored in business. After graduating he worked for Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a management consulting company based in Arlington, VA. He rose in ranks at CEB before eventually discovering real estate in 2009 after purchasing property in Arlington. He eventually left CEB after learning as much as he could about the real estate flipping business, he then proceeded to buy and sell more than 200 properties since 2010. Andrew and Jon partnered up on their first deal in 2020, after realizing they each were pursuing two mobile home parks in the same town outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota. The two have partnered up on seven mobile home park acquisitions since then to date.
Andrew Keel is the owner of Keel Team, LLC, a Top 100 Owner of Manufactured Housing Communities with over 1,500 lots under management. His team currently manages over 20 manufactured housing communities across ten states - AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, MN, NE, OH, PA and TN. 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.
Would you like to see mobile home park projects in progress? If so, follow us on Instagram: @passivemhpinvesting for photos and awesome videos from our recent mobile home park acquisitions.
00:21 - Welcome to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast
02:20 - Jon’s journey and story
06:21 - Performance of Jon’s mobile home parks and self-storage facilities
07:40 - The toughest hurdle in the mobile home park industry
09:13 - The most important things LP’s need to know when investing
10:21 - What Jon’s perfect mobile home park looks like
11:15 - $15 minimum wage and hurdles for the industry in the future
13:00 - Inflation in the business of manufactured housing
14:40 - The future of 4 Brothers Commercial
15:56 - One last tip for passive investors
17:13 - Getting ahold of Jon
17:47 - Conclusion
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Links & Mentions from This Episode:
4 Brothers Commercial: https://4brothersbuyhouses.com/
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 a really cool episode planned with one of my business partners, Jon Carcone of 4 Brothers Commercial. Before we dive in, I want to ask if you could take an extra 30 seconds and please head over to iTunes to rate this podcast with five stars. This helps us get more listeners and it means the absolute world to me. Thanks for making my day with that review of the show. All right, let's dive in. Jon went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and majored in business. After graduation, he moved to Arlington, Virginia, took a job with a management consulting company called the Corporate Executive Board, and worked his way up to managing a large sales team. In 2009, Jon created 4 Brothers Buy Houses, which since then has bought and sold more than 200 single-family properties all over the D.C. area. In the last few years, Jon started focusing on commercial buy-and-hold properties, specifically mobile home parks and self-storage facilities, in the Midwest. Jon and I ended up partnering up in 2020 after both of us individually had two mobile home parks under contract in the same town just outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Since then, we have partnered on a total of seven mobile home parks together with a few more on the way that is under contract. Jon's strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. We complement each other well and it's been a really good partnership. Jon, I'm happy to welcome you to the show.
Jon: I'm happy to be here. I've heard a lot about it and it's been a dream come true. It's my Christmas wish that you would finally have me on and it was granted, so I couldn't be more thrilled.
Andrew: Awesome, man. Can you start out by telling our listeners your story and how you got into manufactured housing? What was the trigger that made you say, hey, I want to own trailer parks someday?
Jon: Who doesn't want to own trailer parks? I feel like as a little six-year-old kid, that's one of the dreams. You want to be a fireman, policeman, astronaut, or a trailer park owner. That was definitely from a very young age. I made a fair amount of money in my single-family flipping business since 2010. What you'll realize is that when you have to go hunt and kill in order to eat, it's tiring. It's a lot easier, a lot more satisfying, and a lot better quality of life if you can be more of a farmer where you're planting and you're getting recurring revenue. I have been trying to get recurring revenue and passive income in a lot of different ways. I bought some rentals in the D.C. area. I did some condo conversions in the D.C. area that I had then held as rentals. I bought student housing rentals. I had 20, 25 rentals, but the cash flow just wasn't enough to support my lifestyle. I've been trying for a few years. I certainly was frustrated and confused about why it wasn't where I thought it should be. Then I had to go into commercial. I knew that commercial was probably a better way for me to get the passive income that I wanted. I like parks because they are pretty recession-resistant, generally, and they have been in the past at least. It's the lowest tier of housing that exists pretty much. It's generally safe because everybody moves down. The A Class goes to B Class, B to the C, C to D aka. mobile home parks. Usually, it does pretty well in a recession. I'm conservative by nature, so I felt like it was a good recession-resistant asset class. I felt like it was ugly and dirty, so by its nature, not being sexy, I felt like the competition was going to be less than something like apartments. I had a false start on it a few years prior where I got close to buying one and didn't feel comfortable at the last minute because it can be just such an ugly-looking asset class. I then came back to it a few years later and finally took the plunge. I bought my first deal in 2019.
Andrew: That's pretty awesome to peel back the layers of that. I know you also got involved in self-storage around the same time. Maybe you can shed a little bit of light on that and the comparisons between the two.
Jon: Yeah. Self-storage is another one that is generally considered to be very recession-resistant as well. Again, it has been historically. It's also fairly light on the management because you're not dealing with human beings, tenant turnover, and things like that. You're just dealing with people's stuff, so there's less emotion and drama. It's a little bit more light in terms of the management, generally speaking. I thought self-storage and mobile home parks tend to both fall in that similar bucket of good recession-resistant asset classes. I figured I would market both of them, I'd do a lot of direct-to-seller marketing, that’s how I get most of my deals. I bought my first and only one self-storage facility in March of 2020. That was shortly after my first park which was at the end of 2019. It would be cool just to get the experience with different asset classes and just see first-hand how they actually perform well in the proforma, how much of a pain they are to manage, and how time-intensive they are.
Andrew: That's very cool. You bought a park and a self-storage facility around the same time. Which has performed better?
Jon: They both performed pretty much to the expectations. We had more issues with that first park, probably, I would say, my very first one than with the self-storage facility, but we did have some issues with the storage as well. Both of them, I would say, actually took a little bit longer to get to the performance we wanted than I would've thought. We thought maybe a couple of months, but it was more like 4–6 months that it took, which is probably to be expected anytime we were doing something for the first time no matter what it is. It's always going to take longer and cost more generally whatever you're doing than you think it will. Which is better now that we're a year, a year and a half in? I'm happier with the mobile home park. It kicks off a lot more cash flow every month than the self-storage facility does. The park was $1.35 million. The storage was $800,000. The park was quite a bit more and I put a ton more money into it, but the park does generate a lot more cash flow. Happy with both of them.
Andrew: Very cool. What has been the toughest hurdle so far for you in the mobile home park business?
Jon: The hardest is getting your first deal as an operator. It's a chicken or egg thing where you don't have the experience yet to be able to properly evaluate and feel comfortable buying a deal, but you can't get the experience until you buy your first deal. There's that leap of faith thing and not knowing what you don't know. As a more conservative person by nature, I was very acutely aware of all the things I didn't know. It took a long time, a lot longer than it should have, for me to get comfortable enough to take the plunge and buy my first deal and take that risk. Just getting comfortable to take a leap of faith was a big challenge for me. Also, having to manage and run other businesses on the single-family side while also carving time out to start another line of business essentially on the commercial side was longer and harder than I thought. Then, I made a bad hire with the salesperson. It lives or dies on sales when you do direct-to-seller. I hired somebody for 6–8 months and he just ended up not being able to get anything done that was really meaningful. Once I hired somebody new and fired him, that helped as well. Leap of faith, wrong salesperson, and taking the time away from my other business were all some of my challenges.
Andrew: What are the most important things that passive investors—I'm talking about LPs here, limited partners—need to look out for when investing into the mobile home park asset class?
Jon: I met with a sponsor one time to invest passively and I didn't like that he was just buying everything through brokers or was listed. I felt like you want to have as many competitive advantages as you possibly can. I like the competitive advantage of going off-market direct-to-seller which most operators do not do. They just rely on broker relationships and listed parks. You can have a competitive advantage by getting more of a discount on the purchase than you otherwise would. Ultimately, I think that a discount on the purchase relative to the value is probably one of the most important if not the most important backers of safety as either a GP or an LP. I really think it's important to make sure that you're getting a discount relative to what it's worth when you're buying it because that's your margin of safety.
Andrew: Spoken as a true wholesaler would say.
Jon: That's right.
Andrew: What does the perfect mobile home park look like in your eyes and why? Jon: It’s changed. I started more focusing on the cash flow piece of it, but now, it's what the average operator probably wants, which is 100+ lots, good well laid out park that has some newer shingle-roofed homes along with maybe another mix of vintage, nice roads, curbs, and paid parking pads in a decent city and decent MSA. That's the ideal in a market like this. It's very difficult to find that at numbers that make sense in terms of buying it, but that would be the ideal.
Andrew: When you find those, you got to bring them to me first, okay?
Jon: That's right.
Andrew: What hurdles does the manufactured housing industry face moving forward? Maybe you can shed some light on what you think a $15 an hour minimum wage would do to the asset class.
Jon: Certainly, a longer-term, more esoteric, and hard to judge issues is stuff like the cost of construction going down by things like 3D printing and stuff like that. If that ever gets exponentially better and all of a sudden, you can build houses for $10,000 or something, $20,000. Again, it gets quite unlikely because just the custom materials continually go up, the cost of land goes up, the cost of infrastructure, water, a sewer that you have to do goes up. That's a possible longer-time outside risk that I think is probably pretty unlikely. Certainly, it is just the market risk wherever you buy any property. If it's a smaller market, there's a major employer that shuts down or something, and now all of a sudden you've lost jobs, that can be obviously an issue for whatever, be it a park or an apartment that you have. The $15 an hour wage will be interesting. That'll make it so people will employ fewer workers, in theory, because they have to pay them more, but the workers they do have will make more money. Potentially, at the low end, it might be harder to find a job because there are fewer of them that pay better, but the ones that do have a job have a little more money, which could possibly help mobile home parks. It’ll come out in the wash will be my guess.
Andrew: I think that's a fair guesstimate there. What do you think about inflation? We're already seeing it in our business. Material costs like you said are going up from lumber to skirting. Everything is getting delayed and costing more. How do you think mobile home parks will fare through a high inflation economy and how can they be moted if you will?
Jon: Like most real estate, I think parks either will be shielded from any negative impacts of inflation or they're going to potentially even benefit from it. The buying of mobile homes like we've seen has gone up 20% or something in the last 6 months. Who knows if that's permanent or not? If it is permanent now, all of a sudden, the cost to build a park in terms of the replacement cost to rebuild it just went up at least 20%. That's a good thing. That just means that you own an asset now that to rebuild it would cost a lot more, so in theory, it should be worth more. Also, having long-term debt at a decent interest rate and a lot of inflation, your debt amount stays the same, but the value of those dollars you pay back with is less in the future, so you actually have less effective debt. That's the beauty of real estate is it's pretty inflation-resistant, inflation-protected. I think that it'll be neutral at worst than probably a benefit.
Andrew: Very cool. What can you tell us about 4 Brothers Commercial and where you will be in the next 5–10 years?
Jon: I'm probably in a monastery in Tibet somewhere meditating 12 hours a day. I would say that probably, I'm going to continue to try to extract myself from my businesses as much as I possibly can to have as much free time as possible to live my life. That's been a work-in-progress certainly and that's going to continue. I expect to be even more hands-off, hopefully, on the commercial business and also on the single-family business to have more time to do fun stuff like play Hacky Sack, go spearfishing, meditate in a monastery, and whatever else.
Andrew: You got to invite me kitesurfing one of these days as well. That's one of your hobbies.
Jon: I don't want you to make me look bad when you're out there, I'll think about it.
Andrew: Last question here. What would be your one tip for passive investors out there looking at mobile home parks that maybe have invested in other private equity, maybe it’s self-storage or multi-family? What would be your one tip to them looking at the mobile home park asset class in considering an investment? Jon: If you're not familiar with the asset class, it's going to be really hard for you to evaluate the specific deal that the sponsor is raising money for. It's probably a little bit easier to feel comfortable with a sponsor—how long have they been doing this for? How many deals have they done? How many deals have they gone full cycle with to actually value-add and then get to the endpoint, which is a sale or a refi? You want somebody that has a fairly long period of time, has done a lot of deals and has a good track record. Evaluating the sponsor is probably a little bit easier to do for somebody not familiar with the asset class. It's probably the more important thing. It's more the jockey than it is the horse in syndications in my opinion. That's what I would say.
Andrew: That's great advice. Jon, how can our listeners get a hold of you if they would like to do so?
Jon: There's a thing that says, don't feel free to contact me. It's an introvert meme thing. My website, 4brotherscommercial.com. Feel free to reach out through there. Happy to talk.
Andrew: That sounds great, Jon. Thank you so much for coming to the show. I'm really happy we got to do this and you got to share part of your sense of humor with our listeners. I really appreciate it, man.
Jon: You're welcome. Happy to do it.
Andrew: That's it for today, folks. Thank you all so much for tuning in.