From “One-Man Show” to Thriving REI Company of 50 in Just Five Years

Growing a successful real estate business across three markets in just five years is an impressive accomplishment for any real estate investor. Going from a one-person operation to a successful business with 50 employees and two thriving brands that are on pace to close 500 deals in 2022 takes strategy and ingenuity. Meet Adam Lambert, a Houston-based PRO real estate investor who did just that. See how he’s grown his business, learn innovative strategies and get valuable tips around growing a business.

Getting started

Before branching out on his own and starting his own real estate business five years ago, Houston-based Adam Lambert wore many hats in the world of real estate. Over his career, he's done a little bit of everything in the industry, from new construction to working with home builders to building finance. When he started growing his own REI business, he was a one-person show, buying houses independently. He was also a broker in Texas for years and is currently licensed in 6 states.

As he hit the pavement looking for deals, Adam began to examine the limiting factors toward getting his business on the growth trajectory he wanted. Because he was growing a business all by himself, he often saw the need to be in two places at once – the office and on the go, running to appointments and buying houses. So, the first issue tackled was hiring a driver. In true multi-tasker fashion, Adam would spend 8+ hours a day riding back and forth to appointments while working in the back seat of his Suburban with a scanner by his side and a refrigerator in the back so he could hit the grind all day, buying houses – driving for dollars.

This ingenious hustle allowed Adam to finish his first year with 55 deals under his belt. The number more than doubled to an impressive 145 deals in the second year. In the second year, he hired additional staff, and the business has continued to grow significantly from there.

Today, just five years later, he runs two separate successful brands, Real Equity Acquisitions and Simple House Buyers, and is doing an average of 40 deals a month. He has amassed a team of 50 across three markets with offices in Houston, Austin, and Cincinnati that's on pace to close around 500 deals in 2022. So, how did he do it?

Flexibility in exit strategies

When asked what has impacted his company's continued success and growth, Adam notes that what's worked well for him and is unique to his business is using an array of different exit strategies. His portfolio has grown through rentals, fix-and-flip and wholesaling. By having all of the exits available in this way, they don't have to force every deal into a specific box – some deals make sense to wholesale, and some deals make sense to rehab or hold.

This flexible strategy has been incredibly beneficial to his business operating in different markets. For instance, Austin is a higher-priced market with extremely low inventory, so the market calls for being more competitive than other markets. In comparison, Cincinnati is a lower-priced market, so the company does a lot more rehabs (30+ at a time) because the margin on a rehab makes more sense in that market. Houston, where he also operates, is in the middle of that spectrum, so remaining flexible with many different exit strategies on a deal-by-deal basis is vital.

Market-focused company structure

In addition to flexibility in exit strategies, the business is structured to maximize market potential in all geographic locations. The company has assigned a "boots on the ground" general manager to each of its three markets. This ensures a market-specific expert with deep knowledge of that area’s housing stock and types of construction oversees each office.

Acquisition experts are under each general manager who meets with both the sellers and the on-the-ground construction managers. In addition, the corporate function has accounting, lead managers, recruiting, and training roles that keep the company moving day-to-day.

Strength in branding

Adam also recognizes the importance of strength in branding to the success of his business. Proper branding makes a memorable impression and allows buyers and sellers alike to know what to expect from the company.

Adam's business operates under different brand names to ensure clarity in its purpose and offerings, distinguishing it from competitors. Simple House Buyers, the brand responsible for direct-to-seller marketing, is a real estate solutions and investment firm specializing in helping homeowners get rid of burdensome houses fast. The Real Equity Acquisitions brand is the business's default company, where they handle much of the sales and dispositions on the backend of each deal.

Investing in people

As the organization grew from one person to a large team, Adam struggled with effectively transferring his knowledge to his employees. Adam quickly learned that he needed to create an efficient employee training and development program to give the business a foundation for years to come.

When hiring new employees into the company, they preferred bringing in talent with the right mentality over experience. This allowed Adam to train them on how he favored things to be done. So, the business invested in a full-time training developer and a learning management system to begin creating and distributing training courses.

This investment was the start of Real Equity University, a training program that all employees go through to learn the ins and outs of the organization's standards and systems. Through this program, they can train new employees and provide them with exposure to the processes very quickly in a scalable and replicable format. This program offers the company a competitive advantage, making the business more flexible in the market. Well-trained employees are equipped to respond to changes in the market, thus ensuring the company's long-term success.

Keeping a watchful eye

Like anything, the real estate investing market goes through changes. It's crucial to stay on top of market trends to remain ahead of the game. With the business projected to close around 500 deals in 2022, the company keeps a close eye on housing inventory. In Austin, for example, median home prices shot up over 30% between 2020 and 20211, and there are more sold houses than active listings – supply keeps going down. The business is a member of many MLSs across the country, nearly all of which have a dashboard of what has hit the market each week, providing real-time data on new active and closed listings. It's essential to keep up with these trends to remain competitive in its operating markets.

In addition to inventory, they track interest rates and buyer demand. Adam personally handles many sales on the MLS deals of their rehabs. This allows him to get first-person, on-the-ground accounts of supply and demand factors as well as the buyer's mindset through these conversations.

The leadership team also holds weekly meetings with the acquisition teams to hear firsthand what sellers are talking about. If they have 20 offers on a house or multiple investors, it's vital to the team that they keep their ears to the ground. Even though, as head of the company, Adam is now detached from some of the day-to-day activities, these meetings help him stay on top of the overall market dynamics.

Lending partnerships

Adam has strong expectations when it comes to working with a lender. His timeframe commitments made to a seller must be met, and his lender partner has to be ready and willing to help meet those commitments every time. It's critical to the company's success that there's a certainty of execution when working with a lender and getting the closings accomplished. In addition, a lender that can go into new states with them as they grow across the country is essential; a local lender is more limited in its exposure or ability to operate in multiple markets.

Adam started working with Kiavi on his fix-and-flip and rental projects about 6-8 months into starting the business and views the relationship as a strategic partnership. The speed at which deals get closed, from contract to funding, has always been excellent. Even in challenging times, like when a hurricane in Houston caused significant flooding, Kiavi has been a reliable partner he can count on.

He has also found that the loan process's operational side, the certainty of closing, and the overall team's experience with feedback on values have been beneficial to his organization. While they are usually aligned in their perspectives, property valuation differences between the business and the lender sometimes occur. On the rare occasion this happens, Adam appreciates that he can pick up the phone to have a quick discussion with his Kiavi rep. The one-to-one relationship and additional backup are valuable to the success of those deals.

The company's focus

Like many successful real estate investors, they've had some growing pains and learned a lot of lessons along the way. To support its future growth, the organization's primary focus is continuing to develop systems that create operational efficiency. As the business has grown so quickly in just five years, successfully expanding into three markets, its focus is to go deeper into its current markets for the next few years.

"We realize there's a ton of opportunity in any individual market. We have quite a bit of expertise where we are. We really need to leverage that to go deeper and do more business in the markets we are in before we expand. Our focus now is on developing more systems and creating a more efficient operation," Adam states.

Advice to new investors

According to Adam, it takes time to meet your long-term goals, and new investors shouldn't push too hard to try and grow their volume until they have their fundamentals down correctly. In his business, they had a mix of exit strategies from when they started, which helped the cash-flow cycle work so that they could grow.

His business always had a few properties in rehab, a few wholesales and a few rental properties. So, it's vital to keep a healthy mix and know what your risk-adjusted return should be on each deal.

Says Adam, "we don't take on more than we can chew and even if that means you grow a little slower, at least you'll be around over the years to keep the business growing."

Developing the right muscles and the right processes to get through the tougher times is most important.

 

1Partain, Claire. “Home Prices, Sales Shoot up for Another Year of Austin's Housing Frenzy.” austonia. austonia, March 4, 2022. https://austonia.com/austin-housing-prices-2021. 

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