In this episode, Broker and Owner of Copeland Morgan, LLC, Jeff Copeland, talks about his journey into real estate as a serial entrepreneur, being a property manager and investor, and
dealing with situations that don’t go to plan.
What is Jeff’s definition of success? Jeff tells us about his most pleasant surprise, his least favorite part of his job, his time-saving hacks, and his experience being on House Hunters
• [02:06] Who is Jeff?
• [03:49] Why did Jeff get involved in real estate?
• [06:56] What is Jeff’s ‘why’?
• [09:16] Standing out as a property manager.
• [13:13] Situations that don’t go to plan.
• [28:07] Jeff’s definition of success.
• [31:20] Income vs wealth.
• [32:44] Jeff’s biggest failure.
• [34:19] A pleasant surprise.
• [35:40] Building, packaging, and selling a business.
• [37:27] Jeff’s least favorite part of his job.
• [40:01] Time-saving hacks to navigate the day-to-day.
• [42:52] The HGTV House Hunters experience.
• [46:19] What’s next for Jeff?
• [48:18] A round of Get To Know You.
• [48:27] What is your favorite book of all time that has had the greatest
impact on your life?
• [49:54] What do you believe sets apart investors, or anyone in the real estate
space, from success and from those who cannot attain that success when
they enter into the space?
• [52:28] If you had to start over with the knowledge that you have now, what
would you have done differently?
• [54:01] Favourite hobby outside of real estate?
• “If you have enough units or you do it for long enough, you’re going to see all kinds of
• “It doesn’t matter what you’re investing in, but if you have the right mindset, if you
have the right long-term outlook, that’s the key to being successful.”
• “A great property manager can turn a mediocre deal into a home run. A bad property
manager can turn what should be a home run deal into a nightmare.”
• “Sometimes you just have to find a way to win and not give up.”
• “You’re going to get some good luck. You’re going to get some bad luck. You’ve got
to deal with both.”
• “You don’t have to be a high-income earner to be wealthy.”
• “If you haven’t even started your business yet, go to a seminar about how to sell that
business when you’re ready to retire.”
• “You can have all the book knowledge in the world. Until you put it into action, it’s
never going to click.”
• “Doing nothing is a choice and doing nothing is not free. That comes with a cost.”
• “The best time to buy real estate was 20 years ago. The second-best time to buy real
estate is right now.”
• “Don’t wait to buy real estate. Buy real estate and wait.”
More About Jeff Copeland
Jeff is a broker and owner of Copeland Morgan LLC, and he is the host of the Tampa Bay
Real Estate Investor’s Podcast.
He is a member of numerous organizations, including the National Association of Realtors,
the National Association of Residential Property Managers, Florida Realtors, The St
Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Greater Tampa Realtors, and the Pinellas Realtor
Organization. His properties have featured on HGTV’s House Hunters, Loopnet, and more.
He has also been featured as a guest on podcasts, such as the Rental Income Podcast, and
the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast.
Jeff holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and International Business, a Master’s
Degree in Public Administration, and several Advanced Certifications in Risk Management
and Human Resources.
Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki
SEO for Dummies
Podcast: Tampa Bay Real Estate Investor's Podcast by Copeland Morgan Media
YouTube: Copeland Morgan LLC
Facebook: The Multifamily Guy
[00:00:00] Jeff Copeland: I think you also hit on an interesting thought to the concept of income versus wealth. There are plenty of people out there who have really high income earning $100,000, $200,000 a year. But they're also broke because they're spending it all on the house and the car and the golf club membership. And I don't know what rich people spend their money on. But you can earn $200,000 a year and spend $220,000 a year, and you're literally poor than the guy who earns 50k But is investing 20 of that and trying to build a real estate portfolio. You factor that out over 20 years, who is going to be better off and so you don't have to be a high-income earner to be wealthy, the two are completely separate. Income and wealth two different things.
[00:00:48] [PODCAST INTRO]: Have you ever asked yourself what can go wrong when investing in apartments? What challenges do investors face when dealing with such a large asset class? Well, on the “No BS Apartment Investing” podcast, we placed expert professionals on the hot seat. Ask them the tough questions that may be running through your mind, all while removing the fluff that comes with apartment investing. We aim to put your mind at ease while showing you that investing in apartments is the way to financial freedom. And now for your host, Marc Cesar.
[00:01:24] Marc Cesar: So welcome everyone to the “No BS Apartment Investing” podcasts. And on this episode, we have with us Mr. Jeff Copeland of Copland Morgan LLC. Jeff, how's it going, sir?
[00:01:35] Jeff Copeland: Great. Great. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:37] Marc Cesar: Awesome. I appreciate you being here. So of course, today, we're going to be speaking with Jeff who has met with many hats. He's a broker. He's a property manager. He also dabbles in construction. And you will definitely learn a lot about those various hats that Jeff wears and his success that has helped him and how those has helped him become successful in the investor space. So let's jump right into it. Jeff, give us a little background on who you are and what you're doing in the real estate space.
[00:02:12] Jeff Copeland: Sure. Well, as you mentioned, I'm the broker and owner of Copeland Morgan LLC. We're a real estate brokerage and property management company located in St. Petersburg, Florida, that's in the Tampa Bay area. I'm an investor myself, I own several rentals, some single-family homes, a condo, a triplex, and we're slowly building that portfolio. But I also have, I don't know if you'd call it the advantage, but I also manage 300 or so units. Obviously, most of those are for other people. And so with that kind of scale, I don't just get to learn from my own mistakes, I get to help people recover from their mistakes too. And so that's why I was really drawn to the No BS idea of your podcast. But we basically have a real estate brokerage and sales arm, we work mostly with investors who are acquiring rental properties. And then in most cases, that gets flipped over to our property management division, and we help the investors or the now owner of the property, manage that property, reposition that asset, and do all of those things that you need to do to make a rental property and give you a good ROI.
[00:03:19] Marc Cesar: That is awesome to get the best of both worlds as an investor or broker and also to learn from the clients that you're working with. So you get an inside look at how the spirit of real estate work. I appreciate you sharing that.
[00:03:35] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I always say if you have enough units, or you do it for long enough, you're gonna see all kinds of weird stuff. So having more units more time or any combination of those things, you're gonna run into a lot of problems.
[00:03:47] Marc Cesar: Yeah, definitely. So give us a bit of background of why did you get involved in real estate?
[00:03:54] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, that's an interesting question. And I just listened to last week's episode with Damian and he talked a lot about how a lot of real estate investors are like serial entrepreneurs, we can't help it. And I had to laugh when he mentioned that because I was looking back and thinking, I was always kind of like an entrepreneur. I remember when I was 12 or 13 years old, my parents wanted me to clean out at the shed or something. And I said, well, I'll clean it out if you let me open a bicycle shop. And I went all in man, I had a sign out by the road, we repair bicycles, bicycle repair, I had a little shed, a sign the whole nine yards. I don't think I ever made a dime. I don't think I ever fixed anybody's bike except my friends. But I was always really interested in being a businessman for lack of a better term. But in terms of how I got into real estate, we bought our first owner-occupied single-family home when I was in my early 20s, but even then, I knew nothing about real estate finance, real estate investing. We did well on that property, but it was strictly an owner-occupied home. I was in the military at the time. So for the next 15 years or so after that, we really didn't have as much of an opportunity to invest. Now I know a lot of military folks do, and they buy property at each of their duty stations. But I just wasn't in the mindset for that at the time. So it really came much later. Going back to the serial entrepreneur thing, my wife started a photography business while we were in Hawaii, and then we moved back to Florida. And that photography business continued to grow. It expanded into a wedding planning business and photography business, which we eventually sold part of. And it was after selling that business that I really got interested in real estate, and we bought our first flip property for $48,000 in about 2013, 2014. And that was just a really fun experience. I mean, it's flipping houses is hard work but you either love it or hate it. And I'm one of those people who loves it. And so we did well on that, I think we bought it for 48 spent 30k on it and sold it for 110, something like that. So it was a success, we got our feet wet, it kind of started up our appetite for real estate investing. And so slowly over the years, we flipped a few more houses, eventually, we decided to keep one of the houses as a rental. And it just kind of snowballed from there. And kind of parallel to that, I eventually got my real estate license, eventually started doing Property Management, eventually got my broker's license, and again, that has kind of snowballed on the professional side in parallel with my personal investing on the personal side.
[00:06:36] Marc Cesar: As that is a lot, man, first and foremost, thank you for your service.
[00:06:39] Jeff Copeland: Thank you.
[00:06:40] Marc Cesar: And to learn that you've actually taken the mindset of wanting to be an entrepreneur from a younger age, and transition that into where you are now is actually incredible, some story and success story at that. Now, like, what is your burning? Why do you wake up every morning wanting to deal with fixing houses, toilets, and so forth?
[00:07:05] Jeff Copeland: That is a great question, and I truly am answering it off the cuff. I didn't know you were going to ask that. I think it's twofold. I think you got to have a short term, like why do I have to get up and go to work today? And for me, that's my clients, I have about 100, 120 investors all over the country who own properties here that I'm responsible for, I'm essentially their asset manager, their property manager. And so I know, every day, I've got to make sure their properties are maintained, the rent is being collected, their tenants are taking care of the property, and our maintenance folks are doing the right thing. And so keeping those systems up and running and fine-tuned and making sure that my investor clients are getting the bang for their buck on the property management side, I would say that's one of the daily sort of get up and go kind of drivers, I got to take care of my people. Longer-term, it is more of a concept of legacy, generational wealth, what am I going to leave to my kids? I come from a poor family interestingly, and last week, Damien mentioned he's either in Alabama or he lives in Alabama, and some of the mindset that you grow up with in the rural south is, we're poor, we're always going to be poor. And I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to break out of that and break my kids out of it. They haven't grown up with that, we're always going to be poor mindset. And the mindset is just so critical that really is the key. It doesn't matter what you're investing in. But if you have the right mindset, and you have the right long-term outlook, I think that's the key to being successful.
[00:08:47] Marc Cesar: That is powerful. I actually heard a quote from someone not too long ago, he said, “The greatest piece of real estate is a piece of real estate six inches between your ears, if you can't control that, that's the only thing you can control. If you can't control that, everything is futile”. So I appreciate you sharing that tip.
[00:09:06] Jeff Copeland: I agree with that 100%. It starts with you. And it starts with your outlook and your willingness to grind.
[00:09:13] Marc Cesar: So let's backtrack a bit. Property Management, you jumped into that. What makes you different or stand out as a property manager compared to the 1000s of property manager management offices or companies that are out there?
[00:09:30] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, that's a great question. Because there's lots, property manager means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There are 1000s, millions, I don't know of independent lone wolf, realtors or real estate agents out there who do sales every day. And they also dabble in property management and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not knocking them. I used to be there. But there's a glaring weakness there if you have a lone wolf property manager, and what if they get sick, what if they get the car crash and they're hospitalized, what if they die? What's the backup plan? What's the continuity of operations plan, that's what we used to call it in the military, who's next in line to take care of your properties? And it really hit me once, when I had a client explain to me that he had that happen to him, and I think it was in Texas. But it doesn't matter where it was, but his property manager literally died. I don't know how or why. But she had all these security deposits, she had all of his rent money, she had her name was on those accounts or those business accounts, she had no access to any of his rental income or his deposits. Everything was just stuck because there wasn't a backup plan in place. So I say all that to say that one thing I think that sets us apart is that we're not a massive multi-international or nag nationwide firm, we're very locally focused. But I think we're just big enough that we have a staff and we have a backup plan in place, and we have plans in place for something happens to me, everything doesn't just fall apart. And so I think I would caution investors, especially those investing from out of state to ask some of those tough questions. Is it just you, or are you it? Or is there a company and a team and systems in place behind you? So if something happens to you as my property manager, because everything still keeps ticking, or at least is there a transition plan, so that I'm not just stuck, without any rental income, and not able to pay my mortgage, and my repairs, or all my operating expenses. So I think that's an important thing that sets us apart from some independent individual property managers. And the other thing is, we truly are an investor-focused real estate brokerage and property management company. So for most of our clients, we're their partner from the beginning, we're helping them find the properties, we're helping them analyze the properties, we're looking ahead at pro forma projections. And what are we going to do with this property after we take it down? And then what are we going to do in year one, year two, year three, whether what are our long-term or intermediate-term goals for this property? And so having that mindset as an investor, myself as an investment-focused broker, and then as a property manager, I think it really, it kind of the circle of life, you have to know, what are your long term plans for this property? And if your property manager isn't on board or doesn't understand that or wasn't involved with that planning, then you really just, you can be spinning your wheels in some cases.
[00:12:27] Marc Cesar: Wow. Yeah, that's very true. A property management team, from what I've learned, they can make your business or break your business very easily. They are a pivotal piece of your team to make sure that your properties and your business plan goals goes upward.
[00:12:41] Jeff Copeland: Absolutely. And I've said this before a great property manager can
turn a mediocre deal into a home run, but a bad property manager can turn what should be a homerun deal into a nightmare. And property management is so key and I really encourage people to put the time and attention into choosing the right property manager but it also has to be the right property manager for you and your goals and how you operate and function in terms of communication and stuff like that.
[00:13:12] Marc Cesar: Well said. Now I'm sure you in your experience 300 units and of course your own units you've probably seen a ton of situations that went left and you know just…
[00:13:27] Jeff Copeland: Left, right, backwards, forwards, you name it.
[00:13:31] Marc Cesar: Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Can you share with us one or two stories that you, whether it's personal on your investment side or with your clients that you've experienced that did not go to plan? And can you share with us how you mitigated that situation? And how it's helped you become a better broker, investor, property manager and all in all that you do?
[00:13:52] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I'd be happy too. One of them I mentioned earlier, I said we were flipping houses and all of a sudden we kept one who decided to rent it out. There's an underlying story to that we had I bought this house it was a great deal, wasn't a house I wanted to own forever but the numbers worked and made great sense. Bought it fixed it up you know sort of moderately we didn't go high end on the finishes because the neighborhood and the price point didn't weren't that but we got it all fixed up ready cleaned up ready to sell, got it under contract quickly got through I think as far as the appraisal or the home inspection or both, and they said “Hey, this back room here, it's not showing up on the square footage”. And we don't think it was permitted. It was built right on ground level with basically lumber trusses on the dirt. This is not the right foundation. This is not permitted square footage. So that deal fell through. And I was kind of stuck scratching my head like well, damn, I didn't catch this. What do I do now? Am I stuck with this house? And I basically said, “You know what, let's rent it. Let's keep this house”. Let's put a tenant in there for a year or two, and then we'll figure it out, we don't have to rush to put it back on the market, we don't have to tear off the back room, which was the third bedroom of the house. Let's just rent it in, buys us some time, and we'll figure it out. And that really was my first foray into being a landlord myself, and it went extremely well, I think the house stayed rented for about three years with very little vacancy. So we're able to pay down the debt, make some rental income on the house. And then when we did get ready to sell it, it was a really simple fix. We just put in the sellers disclosure, hey, this backroom, we don't think it was permitted, so buyer beware, it is your third bedroom. But don't come back to us after inspections and say, “Hey, you didn't tell us about this”. So the buyers that ultimately came in, they knew about it from day one. They didn't care and they move forward with the sale. And there was a little hidden nugget in there too. We didn't know about the square footage. So it turns out the house if you count that granted, it was unpermitted, but on the appraiser when he comes out and measures it. Now this was like 300 square foot bigger than what we had originally advertised. And so it's just one of those things, you have to roll with the punches, there's always going to be twists and turns, some things are gonna go left like you said, and you just gotta have a, ‘Plan A’, ‘Plan B’, ‘Plan C’. Our ‘Plan A’ was to flip it, ‘Plan B’ became rent it, and then ‘Plan C’ became sell it in a couple of years with a disclosure. So that's one example. I can dive into a couple more, if you want you can ask some follow-up questions on that.
[00:16:37] Marc Cesar: Yeah, that's a great example. It shows the creativity that you have to have in the space as a problem solver because that's where we are, where we're problem solvers first. We as investors, we have a fiduciary responsibility to assist our clients which are our tenants, and you have to be able to know how to pivot when something doesn't go as you initially planned, you have to have an exit strategy. And that's why they always say you must have at least three exit strategies in real estate. So I appreciate you sharing that. But if you do have another scary story. So see, gave us one on your end, can you share one from your client's perspective as to something that happened property management-wise, or something like that?
[00:17:20] Jeff Copeland: A real quick follow-up to the first one and I mentioned it briefly. But that was my mistake. I didn't measure the square footage. I didn't look closely at this, this addition on the back, and so mistakes will be made but that's how you learn. You know, and I think they mentioned in one of your other episodes, there's winners, and there's learners. And when you make mistakes, you learn, you pick up the pieces you move on, and you're that much better for the next deal. So making a mistake does not have to be a financial disaster. It's a quick pivot to ‘Plan B’, and you move on. And often when I have bought properties, my wife will ask you, what are we gonna do with this property? I'm like, I don't know yet. But we cannot buy it because it's a great deal. And we have ‘Option A’, ‘Option B’, ‘Option C’, ‘Option D’, we can't go wrong and so moving on COVID has obviously impacted a lot of people over the last couple of years. And I had some clients, and they're really more than just clients. This is a long-term business partner of mine, and we manage about 100 of his units here in the Tampa Bay area. We've helped him acquire them also, we're very sort of intertwined in terms of our two different business models. So he bought this eight-unit property. It's in the historic uptown neighborhood of St. Pete, which is a really sought-after area with quite a bit of multifamily inventory. They bought it in December 2019, January 2020, right in that timeframe, was when everything was happening. And of course, you know what I'm going to say next? And in March 2020, COVID happened and the world's shut down. So this was intended to be a relatively quick renovation and repositioning of this eight-unit asset. We thought maybe six months, we can get this sort of quick turn fixed up and repositioned and rented again. Well, that didn't happen, come March 2020, the world kind of shut down. On top of all this, the city got involved with some code violations. So now they were breathing down our neck and we had to get more involved in terms of project plan and permitting and stuff like that were to bring in an architect and so this project just snowballed into what we thought was a three to six-month quick turn into a two-year drawn-out construction project. And fortunately in the end, the market appreciated, the rents appreciated along during that same two-year period. And so literally it just finished up, it's fully occupied as of November 2021, and has a $12,000 rent roll as we speak, and that's probably 50% higher than what we thought it would be going in. But I think the key is there, just because stuff happens, COVID happens the city stops, approving permits or processing, building plans, you got to keep grinding, you got to keep moving things forward. And it may not happen in six months, it may not happen in nine months, but you got to keep that project moving forward. You can't just stop. I mean, I guess you could just say, “Hey, we're gonna sell it off, or whatever”. And we did run through that scenario at one point, but in the end, it all worked out. And it's kind of a trophy asset. Now, everything has been redone, renovated, and it's fully occupied. And now that gives them the opportunity to go and put some long-term debt in place at a really low cost in terms of interest rates and historical costs for debt. And it's one of those things that was scary during the dark times, but it's a win in the end. And I think that's another takeaway, sometimes you just have to find a way to win and not give up.
[00:21:10] Marc Cesar: Yeah, I mean, that's very interesting. Because if we go back to 2008 when the housing market crashed, a lot of people were losing their shirts, especially fixer flippers. People did not know what to do. And there was no other options for people, banks wouldn't loan, people were stuck with houses that they could not sell. And it really shows us fast forward to, as you mentioned, to 2021 COVID happened, we did not expect that to come down. And I think it made people a lot more resilient to really look at okay, what are my strategies? What are my, what's the plan? How can I pivot from this aspect? And you guys actually, you had strategies where, okay, we can either take the loss, we can either you sell the properties off, but you guys stuck, and you planted your feet and trenches, and it worked out for you panned out, the value went up, you guys were able to get increasing, that is incredible. And again, that shows the creativity and problem-solving for you guys.
[00:22:16] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, and of course, we knew the value was going up. And we were watching what the market was doing during this, the dark times that I mentioned, but I remember having a conference call with my client and one of his money partners in the deal. And they were really stressed out about especially his other partner who isn't as involved. He was just a money partner, what I don't know, the split or anything like that. But I was able to tell him look, “Yes, this is all bad, but yes, we're moving things forward and yes, the market is appreciating at double digits”. And so we it gives us a little bit of a buffer and a little bit of breathing room to get this done. So it worked out in the end. But you're right, you have to be flexible as a real estate investor, nothing is ever going to happen exactly to plan, the rents not going to come in exactly on the first. And if COVID taught us anything, it's that be flexible. Think of some alternative solutions, how can we get through some of this historic stuff that has never happened before? And now here we are having to deal with it. And you just got to be flexible, and you got to keep things moving along.
[00:23:25] Marc Cesar: Yeah, that is amazing. Again, you have to learn, you have to pretty much see the writing on the wall ahead of time in a sense and really know how to navigate it or else you're just gonna get caught out there and it might hurt. But again, that's the point of the show. We don't want the cookie-cutter the shining lights aspect of it, but we want to know, okay, how do we handle the situation? How do we mitigate the situation? You want to.....
[crosstalk 00:23:56 – 00:23:59]. Yeah, exactly. I'm a firm believer that all of these things, and I think you alluded to it earlier is that all these issues that can go wrong, that's what helps you become a savvier investor. It helps sharpening your toolkit, it makes you better because now you're thinking, “Okay, this can happen”. So how can I solve that problem? That's powerful.
[00:24:25] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, absolutely. And so many people out there and I see this with
some of my family and friends and things, they think I'm lucky, or they think they're unlucky. Luck has nothing to do with it. You're gonna get some good luck. You're gonna get some bad luck. You got to deal with both. And when the good luck comes, be thankful and accepted. When the bad luck comes, deal with that. It's just part of life, and so luck has nothing to do with it. It's all about hard work, being consistent and being willing to grind, and having a long-term outlook. You're not going to get rich in real estate next month, next year, or even in 2025, you're gonna get rich slow. But that should be your plan all along.
[00:25:08] Marc Cesar: Wow. That is powerful. I like that because a lot of people think real estate is the microwave to wealth. And it's not, it's a long-term play. You have to think long-term. But as you mentioned, consistently doing small things everyday compounds and adds up. And eventually, you'll be able to leave that legacy, you'll be able to enjoy the lifestyle that you want. That's all. That's what it's all about. I am glad you're sharing this with us today, Jeff. Thank you so much for that.
[00:25:38] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, that you hit the nail on the head. And that's why it annoys me so much when people look at me or other successful investors and say, “Oh, they're so lucky”. It's like, “No, I'm not lucky”, I've been busting my ass for 20, 30 years to get here. And you could have done it too if you worked just as hard. And I know people come from all different backgrounds, educationally socio-economic, but I didn't have any trust fund or inheritance. I come from a poor family. So everything that I've earned, every penny I've earned, I earned myself, and everything that I've bought and sold, I did myself. I'm from the school of hard knocks. I mean, I do have a formal education, but it didn't teach me what I needed to know to be a real estate investor. And I mentioned earlier that we bought a single-family home when I was in my 20s. But even at the time, I had a Bachelor's degree, later on, I got my Master's degree, but I still didn't really learn what I needed to know about real estate finance to be a successful investor until probably years after I graduated from college, years after getting a degree and even taking some finance and accounting classes, they still don't teach you the basics of how to get a mortgage? How do you do seller financing? How do you do some creative financing strategies? How much money do you need to put down? The basic stuff that that investors are many of them are just craving to learn and need to know, they don't teach you in school. And maybe they should, but they don't. And so you have to find other ways to educate yourself to get where you want to be.
[00:27:09] Marc Cesar: Yeah, awesome. I mean, I totally agree. You have to learn on the goal, you have to learn in the trenches, that's the best way to learn. And if you don't find someone who's doing what you're doing, and just ask them questions, because there are a lot of people out there who want to just share that information but you're not asking the right questions. So you definitely have to just go out there and find that answer. And like you said, school of hard knocks is lifelong.
[00:27:36] Jeff Copeland: And you don't always have to do a $5,000-weekend seminar or a $40,000 course. There are plenty of people out there doing this on a daily basis that would happily answer your questions, take you under their wing, find a mentor, find somebody you can bounce ideas off of, find a good real estate broker, good property manager who you're going to establish a long term relationship with, and that'll get you up with a pretty good clip down the road to get you started.
[00:28:05] Marc Cesar: Definitely, I appreciate that. So now I know, that success varies for everyone. There's a different definition for it. Everyone has a different definition for success. So what is your definition of success, or what is your secret to success?
[00:28:22] Jeff Copeland: Well, I think it changes over time. And I mentioned, I come from a military background and people don't say, I work for the Air Force, or I worked for the Coast Guard or the Army. You say I'm in the Coast Guard, and I was in the Coast Guard, by the way. And so you come out of the military with this mentality that there is no clock, you're working 24 hours a day if needed. In many cases, literally, you're away on a ship or deployed or whatever, and you're working constantly. And so when you come into the world of being an entrepreneur, you have to manage that a little bit. Because if you do work 80 hours a week, 90 hours a week, 100 hours a week, you can't sustain that for long. Now don't get me wrong, there are times when you may have to, especially when you're in the early years when you're setting up your business and you're grinding and if you're a little younger and you can afford to do it. But I think when you get a little later, I mean my kids are 20 and 17 now, we're soon to be empty nesters. And so right now, my definition of success is, I don't have to work 80 hours a week. I have systems, I have teams in place and if I want to take Friday off and spend the day with my wife on the boat or go away for the weekend or whatever I can, and so having that flexibility to be able to spend time with my family, with my kids before they leave home and things like that, that is success for me right now. And I mentioned long term, I want my kids to inherit some assets and have this concept of generational wealth so they're not having to break out of that, that poor people mindset where you get your pay cheque on Friday, and then you're broke on Monday. So you got to go back to work and do it all again. That's a terrible, terrible way to live. But so many people don't know any other way. And so I think success is going to change, or your definition of success is going to change at different periods in your life, depending on where you're at with work and family and things like that, but that's okay. You can always adjust, you can always move the goal line. You're the boss.
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[00:31:18] Marc Cesar: Definitely, I've come to learn that success is not just monetarily anymore. I mean, I'm a young guy, I'm 35. I do want to say that. But I think a lot of people attribute success to a monetary value. Hey, I need that million dollars. Hey, I need to have the nice car or the big 10-acre house. But sometimes success is just simple. As you mentioned, having time to do what I want to do like you said, just going on the boat with your wife or spending time with your kids.
[00:31:51] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I think you also hit on an interesting thought to or the concept of income versus wealth. There are plenty of people out there who have really high income earning $100,000, $200,000 a year. But they're also broke because they're spending it all on the house and the car and the golf club membership. And I don't know what rich people spend their money on. But you can earn $200,000 a year and spend $220,000 a year. And you're literally poor than the guy who earns 50k, but is investing 20 of that, and trying to build a real estate portfolio. You factor that out over 20 years, who's going to be better off. And so you don't have to be a high-income earner to be wealthy, the two are completely separate, income and wealth, two different things.
[00:32:41] Marc Cesar: Powerful, powerful, powerful, powerful. Now, what is the biggest failure that you've learned from in your journey?
[00:32:50] Jeff Copeland: I think you might have stumped me on that. I mean, I don't tend to think in terms of failure. And I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it's true. I mean, I know there are going to be mistakes. I know there are going to be setbacks. But I think if you expect that going in, the sky is not falling. It's like, Oh my God, it's a failure. It's like, oh, that happens. All right, well, let's pick up the pieces and move on. And I think when you're in a leadership role if you own a company, or if you're running a team, having that mentality goes a long way towards sort of settling everybody down. And if the guy at the top is freaking out, then everybody else freaks out. But if something bad happens, there's a fire, a flood, a dead tenant. All of these things I've dealt with in the last year or two, by the way, what I get paid for as a property manager is to deal with those problems. And I don't call my property owner in New York or Texas and say, Oh, my God, the tenant is dead. We don't know what to do. I call them and say, “Hey, listen, we got a problem here. You know, the tenant passed away, we're doing this, we're getting it cleaned up and we've talked to the next of kin. Everything will be good. We'll have your unit re-rented within a couple of weeks”. That's what they want to hear. They want to hear the calm, cool, collected. So build up that skill as well, learn how to deal with adversity, learn how to be cool, calm, and collected under pressure. And that'll get you a long way, not just in real estate investing but in life.
[00:34:17] Marc Cesar: Wow, that's powerful right there. Now, what is the biggest surprise you found in your success? What is something that happened that you did not expect?
[00:34:28] Jeff Copeland: I mean, one pleasant surprise that I sort of just stumbled upon a couple of years ago is, there's actually a lot of demand for Property Management Companies. And so I've spent the past several years building up this 300-unit Property Management Company, but at the time, I had never really thought about well, what happens in the end when I want to retire? But I have since learned and it was a pleasant surprise and whether there are systems and companies and programs in place where you can sell your property management accounts. And obviously, they're valuable, they are an asset because they bring in residual income. And so I don't know if that was really a surprise, but it's something that's kind of helped me plan for the long term. Someday, I may not want to deal with the property management stuff, but it's nice to know that I can package that up and sell it to someone who will take good care of it. And maybe I keep the brokerage side or decide to go and just be retired someday, but it's nice to have the pieces that you can break apart and divvy up when it comes time to have your exit strategy. In business, just like you have in real estate, you need to have that ‘Plan A’, ‘Plan B’.
[00:35:40] Marc Cesar: I think you've touched on something very interesting there with that question with that answer to that question, which is learning how to build the business up and package it and prepare for future sale and in the long term. I think a lot of people have the conception that I need to keep working, working until I pretty much pass out or die. But the name of the game, I think a lot of the wealthy in this country, what they do is they build a brand, they build it so beautifully. And then they can package it and sell it. So you want to be able to be hands-off or step out and enjoy life and enjoy your well. So that is something key that a lot of people are missing out on.
[00:36:22] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, absolutely. If you look at a lot of these extremely wealthy serial entrepreneurs in the tech field and others, they're not running a business for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, and then retiring, they're building a business, packaging it up, selling it off. And then maybe they start another one, which goes back to our very first conversation about being a serial entrepreneur. I don't anticipate doing that anytime soon. And where I stumbled upon it, as I literally saw something in my email, it was a conference, “How to Sell your Property Management Company”, I was like, well, I had never even thought about that my company's not for sale but maybe I'll go to this seminar now. So that I know what to aim for 10, 20 years from now. So I would encourage other people to consider the same thing if whether it's real estate or any other business that you're in, if you haven't even started your business yet, go to a seminar about how to sell that business when you're ready to retire because that will help and put you on the right path to get there. And it's a lot easier to aim at the very beginning than it is to change course midstream.
[00:37:26] Marc Cesar: Definitely. Now, what is the least favorite part of your job? Whether it be a role or position that you are comfortable sharing with us today?
[00:37:34] Jeff Copeland: I mean, my least favorite part of being a Property Manager it's probably twofold. One, it's dealing with rent collections. And when people are struggling financially, and they can't pay their rent it. I have to be the bad guy and say, “Look, you signed a contract, I work for the property owners, and I like you fine as my tenant, you're a great person, there's nothing personal but I work for the man who owns the property. So you either have to pay, or you have to leave. And if we can't negotiate that, but amongst us, then we have to go to court and let the judge decide”. So that's always a challenge. The other one is, and this comes up all the time because a lot of our investors are buying value add properties. And the idea is well what can we do to raise the rents and prove the property and prove the value? Oftentimes, that means non-renewing leases or terminating month-to-month tenancies. I just had a call last night with some investors, they purchased a property last month. And it’s December, and we're looking ahead to after the first of the year, what are our plans, and we have to get the tenants out of this property so that they can complete their renovations and things that they need to do. And so that's never pleasant to tell somebody, “Hey, I know it's Christmas time. But come January, February, you're going to have to move out because your lease is up, or we're terminating your month to month”. But I think there's also a way to approach that, be professional, it's nothing personal. And try to give them plenty of time, don't drop it on them at the last minute, but those are probably my two least favorite parts of the job but on the flip side, that's what I get paid for. That's because the landlord doesn't want to do that stuff and I get to be the middleman. And so that's, if there were never any problems, nobody would need a real tour, nobody would need a Property Manager, we get paid to deal with the problems.
[00:39:23] Marc Cesar: I understand that. And I'm sure it's not an easy thing to do. Especially on being a person you definitely want to relate with the other person if they're going through a situation but as you said, you have to answer to the higher-ups which are the owners of the asset, and you definitely want to keep that relationship going. So you have to make the hard choices and make the hard calls. Kudos to you on that. I definitely would not want to be in that shoe. I know it takes a lot.
[00:39:56] Jeff Copeland: That's why I hire Property Managers.
[00:39:59] Marc Cesar: Definitely. So now what is, do you have any time-saving act hacks that you use to help you navigate your day-to-day, whether it be on as a, you know, broker agent or dealing with your own investment or property management?
[00:40:17] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I would just say that in general, I am very, I won't say that I'm tech-savvy, but I'm very tech-dependent. I look to adopt technologies that allow us to scale up and allow us to do more with less people in less time, more with less. On the property management side, we use a property management software called Buildium, it has grown with us from literally one unit to 300 plus units. So it has proven to be very scalable. It's all-encompassing, we do publish our vacant listings, we take applications, we do credit screenings, background checks, we collect the rent, we do the accounting, everything is self-contained in the software. And then there's some ancillary pieces as well, we have some software where tenants can go to 711, or CVS and pay cash at the register to pay their rent, and it gets automatically posted to their account. We use a project management software called Trello. I have some owners who may have 10 projects at 10 different properties on the go, or in some cases, it may be 5 or 6 different partners who all want to get an update on what's going on. And so we've learned to put everything in this project management software called Trello, which is a great way to keep multiple parties on the same page or keep multiple projects up to date. And we use it even with regards to upcoming lease turnovers, upcoming vacancies that we have to turn over, we have checklists built into it, the more you can automate the processes and make it so that if ‘Person A’ leaves to get a new job, ‘Person B’ comes in to replace them, the processes and the procedures need to be there. So that one person can teach it to the next and makes it a little bit more plug and play so that you're not starting over every time you have a personnel change.
[00:42:12] Marc Cesar: Very nice, systems are very important.
[00:42:15] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I think really, that's what my clients pay me for is there's nothing stopping you as a new real estate investor from going out and buying properties and figuring all this stuff out yourself. It's going to take you 5 or 10 years to get the systems and processes and procedures and staff and team and contractors that we already have in place and so by hiring us as a property management company or hiring a property management company in whatever market you're investing in, you're buying into those systems and processes and procedures that they've already worked out the kinks and so it already runs smoothly and you're not starting from scratch.
[00:42:51] Marc Cesar: Awesome. So I do see on your resume that you have an investment property that was listed on HGTV House Hunters can you tell us about that experience like that is super cool thing to be on?
[00:43:04] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, it was actually a listing that we had but it was clients of ours who had purchased this property as a flip. They fixed it up, they had decorated it really nicely. As I mentioned, my wife is a photographer so she did the staging and the photography and it was a really, really cute house that photographed really, really well. And HGTV literally contacted us via the MLS and said “Hey, we're filming in your area. Can we use your house too as part of the show”. It was House Hunters so they had ‘House A’, ‘House B’, ‘House C’ and they showed the tour of each home and then the buyers picked the winner. So the process was really simple. I mean, we needed to make sure that nobody else was in the house that day they showed up they did the filming and then it showed up on TV two or three months down the road. But interestingly some inside scoop I'm probably not supposed to tell you this but the buyers had already bought their house, they already knew which house they were buying before they ever even filmed the episode. So they kind of do it in reverse which if you think about it it's probably the only way that could really work, so they bought the house they wanted and then they went back and toured these other houses and so it kind of works in reverse, it's more scripted than most people realize.
[00:44:25] Marc Cesar: Understood. I just got to know, I never knew that. So what did that help like, boost your business a bit or boost the eyeballs on what you do in your company at all?
[00:44:38] Jeff Copeland: I mean, maybe a little bit. It was a few years ago so any impact that it had is probably long gone, but I think it did certainly help with that listing. They ended up not selling the house at the time. They kept it for a few years. So, of course, every time we leased the house part of our marketing was “Hey, this house was on HGTV", and then they did that they ended up selling the house earlier this year actually, and so we still call it the HGTV house. So I think it was more of just pride and the listing looked great, the photos looked great, and just the recognition of us doing a good job as the listing agent. But there weren't any, it wasn't a windfall of cash or cash and prizes or anything like that from HGTV. It's just the fun of having your property on TV.
[00:45:25] Marc Cesar: Nice. Well, to all the listeners if quick shameless plug, if you need a phenomenal camera person, Jeff's wife is the go-to person. And I'm pretty sure you will definitely make sure you know how to reach her and them to take pictures of your house. So hopefully be featured on House Hunters, you never know.
[00:45:47] Jeff Copeland: I appreciate that. She really doesn't advertise real estate photography. She does portraits and things like that. But when you know somebody, you can kind of pull some strings and get them to do your photos.
[00:45:59] Marc Cesar: Definitely.
[00:46:00] Jeff Copeland: But she does a lot of my listing photos and things like that. So it's nice to have someone with the eye of a photographer and a stager and a flipper who also has the photography skills to put it in the best light so to speak, no pun intended.
[00:46:14] Marc Cesar: Definitely. So we're pretty much coming on to the end of this episode. But Jeff, what is next for you and your company Copeland Morgan?
[00:46:25] Jeff Copeland: That's a good question. I mean, I have two goals, really from a company standpoint, it's to continue growing the property management side. And that is happening more or less organically, we have new properties coming online, we have owners who are buying more properties. And so the property management, the number of doors tends to kind of grow on its own, and that's a good place to be. And then on the brokerage side, I actually want to bring in more investor-focused or investor-friendly real estate agents or investor agents, investors who have their license, but they need a place to hang their license with a broker in Florida, that's kind of who we attract. And so those are kind of my two goals is property management accounts and new real estate agents hanging their license with our brokerage.
[00:47:15] Marc Cesar: Awesome. And do you have any plans to grow your portfolio, or are you looking to remain on the smaller scale, or are you looking to jump in with the big ways as well?
[00:47:26] Jeff Copeland: Yeah, I mean, we're always looking to grow but grow carefully and cautiously. We currently have a triplex under renovation, we just bought it a couple of months ago, it's a complete gut job rehab, and we're actually documenting the rehab process on Instagram. It's the multifamily guy on Instagram if you want to check that out. We're doing pictures and video as we're in there doing demolition and clean out and fixing a bunch of termite damage and stuff like that. And so I tried to post a few nuggets in there that investors might find helpful when they're doing their own renovations or are looking at a property that they are trying to determine the scope of work for renovations. And so that's something that we're working on right now is getting that triplex back online, and then probably later, in 2022, we'll be able to refinance that, and then we'll be looking for our next deal.
[00:48:16] Marc Cesar: Very nice, awesome. So we're gonna get to a quick round of "get to know you" sort of like a speed round type of thing. So let's just shoot straight for it. What is your favorite book of all time that has had the greatest impact on your life?
[00:48:33] Jeff Copeland: Well, this is very cliche, but the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” is a great book. And if you haven't read it, it's like the staple of real estate investing. Now, I will put the caveat there that I'm not a huge fan of the Kiyosaki Empire and the amount of money they charge for some of their training and stuff like that. But the book itself is great, it's a very first stepping stone into getting your mind wrapped around the idea of real estate investing. So I think for many people, that book is sort of step one, it's what gets you interested in the idea of owning real estate and being a landlord and owning a business rather than working for the man and the rat race, as they call it. I can't say that that book did not have an impact, especially as it pertains to real estate investing. Totally off-topic, another really good book, if you're doing anything in business, real estate, any type of business, you need to understand search engine optimization, how to rank well on Google. And so there's “SEO for Dummies” is a great book that really opened my eyes to like the whole world of how Google search engine rankings work. And you can use that in a lot of different ways in a lot of different business opportunities to create sales leads, which is the lifeblood of any business.
[00:49:51] Marc Cesar: Definitely. What do you believe sets apart investors or anyone in the real estate space that sets them apart from success and from those who cannot attain that success when they enter into the space?
[00:50:09] Jeff Copeland: Well, I mentioned earlier that I don't think there's enough real-world financial education with in terms of how do you buy a house? How do you buy an investment property, how much down payment is required? How do you get the financing, and that's usually where a lot of want-to-be or soon-to-be investors start is learning about the financing aspect of it and figuring out all that stuff. But you can have all the book knowledge in the world until you put it into action, it's never going to click. And so that's where a lot of people get stuck, analysis, paralysis is the classic phase is people learn, learn, learn, they study, study, study, they analyze, analyze, analyze, but they're scared to death to pull the trigger, and they never do. And I always tell people, doing nothing is a choice. And doing nothing is not free that comes with a cost. And so the opportunity cost of not buying that property or not investing in that asset, where does that leave you 20 years from now? And don't think that doing nothing has no repercussions. And so I think still, what holds back so many people is that analysis, paralysis, and that fear of jumping in signing the contract or even after you sign the contract, not backing out during the due diligence period. And that's where that sort of some other people really hit the wall. But just buy a property, just get started. And I've heard this on some of your other episodes, it's not that hard. Save up some money, make a down payment, buy a decent property, learn from the process, wash, rinse, repeat, and do it again.
[00:51:42] Marc Cesar: That is awesome. I think one, just briefly tie a quote that I've learned from one of my coaches over the years says, “Start with what you have now, go as far as you can. And when you get to that, to that end, you'll figure the rest out”. That is, I think sums everything that you just said, it's and that quote is what I live by every day. I don't try to figure it out on the front end. Just start where you're at, just start going keep and when you hit that end, you'll figure the rest off.
[00:52:13] Jeff Copeland: And the things you do and the things you learn along the way will make that decision so much easier once you get there. But if you never take the first step, nothing ever happens. And don't fool yourself into thinking that there's no cost to that.
[00:52:27] Marc Cesar: Well said, if you have to start over with the knowledge that you have now, what would you have done differently?
[00:52:34] Jeff Copeland: Start sooner. You never talk to a real estate investor who says, I wish I had waited. I wish I hadn't bought these properties. It's always “Oh man, I wish I bought that place five years ago”. “I wish I bought that place 10 years ago”. Why didn't I buy that place 20 years ago, they say the best time to buy real estate was 20 years ago, the second-best time to buy real estate is right now. And then they also say, don't wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait. And those are so, so true. I think every real estate investors regret is to some extent is not starting sooner. Just because you're 20, 25 years old, doesn't mean you can't buy a house doesn't mean you can't buy a duplex doesn't mean you can't jump in and get started. And if you start your career, whether you're graduating college or starting work or whatever in your 20s you know start with that goal in mind, save up a down payment, doesn't have to be much, you might be able to do FHA or some other type of financing that might take 3% down. But buy some real estate, get started. You don't have to live in it forever, but just take that first plunge into real estate. And what you'll find is one, the hardest deal is the first deal. Once you do that first one, you're like, “Oh, that wasn't so scary, and that wasn't so hard. That was kind of fun. I want to do it again”. So it becomes addictive. You want to continue to grow your portfolio, you want to buy more and more real estate because you start to see the power of it, especially over the long term.
[00:53:59] Marc Cesar: Definitely. Favorite hobby outside of real estate?
[00:54:04] Jeff Copeland: Definitely boating and travel. My wife and I are avid boaters and even more so in the last couple of years during COVID There wasn't a whole lot else to do so. So we do a lot of boating here locally in the Tampa Bay area. We took our boat down to the Florida Keys for the past two Thanksgivings. So we're definitely into boating and then travel which has also been limited somewhat over the past couple of years. My wife was supposed to, we were supposed to go to, my wife's from the UK. We were supposed to go home to her family in Wales in March 2020 for her parent’s 60th wedding anniversary and her mother's 80th birthday. Needless to say, that got canceled. That was literally the day they shut down international travel. We were supposed to fly out the next day. So we've been waiting patiently for almost two years to travel to the UK again, and fingers crossed. We're scheduled to go December 20th to go see her family and her parents and we've got some fun stuff planned. So we're looking forward to being able to travel again. And we have done a lot of inside the US travel over the last couple of years, a lot of road trips, and things like that. But we've been a little bit limited because of the pandemic as far as how, when and where you can travel.
[00:55:18] Marc Cesar: Very nice. That's a lot to you guys on that one.
[00:55:23] Jeff Copeland: Thanks.
[00:55:23] Marc Cesar: Now, if anyone wanted to get in touch or connect with you Jeff, whether it's for property management purposes or just education-wise, how would they go about doing so?
[00:55:36] Jeff Copeland: Two websites, there's copelandmorgan.com. That's our main website for the real estate, brokerage, and property management stuff. And then I also have a website called themultifamilyguy.com, which has a blog and some educational material and things like that. From there, you can get to our YouTube Channel or Facebook and find us on social media. But those two websites are the great, easiest place to start.
[00:56:02] Marc Cesar: Perfect, and just add all those links and resources, Jeff, mentioned will definitely be in the show notes as well. So we've definitely come to an end. Jeff, I want to thank you so much for surviving our hot seat and sharing your amazing story and the tips and nuggets that you dropped. As I mentioned, all the information will be posted in the show notes. And with that said everyone, “Happy Investing” and to all your success. Jeff, thank you again, sir.
[00:56:29] Jeff Copeland: Thank you again, thank you for having me.
[00:56:31] [PODCAST OUTRO]: Thank you for tuning in. And I hope you got massive value from this episode. But before you leave, subscribe, download, and leave us your five-star review. As we want to continue pumping you with massive value and content on the “No BS Apartment Investing” podcast until next time.
Broker/Owner, Property Manager, Investor
My name is Jeff Copeland, and I partner with investors from all over the U.S. and abroad to expand their multifamily investment property holdings here in the Tampa Bay Area. I help investors like you find, analyze, inspect, negotiate, acquire, and manage multifamily investment properties here in Tampa Bay, Florida.
I’m the broker and owner of Copeland Morgan LLC, and the host of the Tampa Bay Real Estate Investor’s Podcast by Copeland Morgan Media.
I have sold and managed millions of dollars’ worth of investment property in St Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater. I’m an active real estate investor myself, so I truly understand the numbers, and how they impact the goals and objectives of real estate investors when it comes to analyzing the cap rate, cash on cash return, financing, repairs, and other costs of an investment property…as well as the critical importance of maintaining high occupancy rates at full market rent.
I am a member of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, Greater Tampa Realtors, Florida Realtors, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Residential Property Managers, and St Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. My investment property listing listings have been featured on HGTV’s House Hunters, Loopnet, and other media, and I’ve been a featured guest on the Rental Income Podcast and Active Duty Passive Income podcast. I’m also a frequent flyer on Bigger Pockets.
In addition to my experience as a real estate investor, real estate agent, and broker, my education and executive management experience in business and the public sector are a tremendous asset to my real estate investor clients. I hold a master’s degree in public administration, and a bachelor’s in management and international business. I also hold advanced certifications in risk management and human resources.
2021 Personal Highlights:
17 investment property acquisitions/sales
300+ units/over $75M in real estate assets under management in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties
5-Star client rating
2020 Personal Highlights:
27 investment property acquisitions/sales
250 units/over $4oM in real estate assets under management in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties
5-Star client rating
2019 Personal Highlights:
New office location opened at 5600 Dr MLK Jr St N in St Pete
25 investor property acquisitions/sales
228 units/over $30M in real estate assets under management in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties
5-Star client rating
2018 Personal Highlights:
35 investor property acquisitions/sales
175 units/over $20M in real estate assets under management in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties
5-Star client rating
2017 Personal Highlights:
27 investor property acquisitions
61 units/over $15M in real estate assets under management in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties
Future Home Realty top producer: “Capper’s Club” & “$100k Club” member
5-Star client rating
Also, see https://themultifamilyguy.com