Making Property Management Cool Again
Kenny Hall is the Principal Broker and Owner of LIV Indy, an Indianapolis-based property management firm that is revolutionizing the real estate landscape.
In this episode, Tyler Lingle and Kenny discuss Kenny's background and emergence into the real estate world. They talk about what he is trying to build with LIV Indy, and the unique value-offer LIV Indy offers Indianapolis investors.
Tyler: My name is Tyler and this is the "How You Build This Indy" podcast. In this podcast, I sit down with some of the most successful founders and entrepreneurs in Indianapolis. I deconstruct how they have built what they have built. My goal is to inspire you to build something truly impactful wherever you are.
Tyler: All right, today on the podcast, I sat down with Kenny Hall. Kenny Hall runs LIV Indy. LIV Indy is a boutique brokerage in Indianapolis, IN that specializes in investment real estate. They're also a property management firm. And they have over 200 units under management. We get into the nitty gritty of scaling your real estate business, Kenny's personal background, and some tips for new investors out there. I really enjoyed this one. And I hope you do too.
Tyler: How old are you actually?
Kenny: Just turned 30.
Tyler: Okay, right on. So yeah, I'd love to hear kind of a little bit about your background, like, where did you grow up?
Kenny: My background. I was born in San Diego, lived there two years. So I can claim it as blood but didn't get it grew up there. But moved to Springfield, Illinois, at two or three years old and grew up there.
Tyler: I believe you went to Indiana Wesleyan University. And what was your major again?
Kenny: I was marketing.
Tyler: Marketing. But you were kind of interested in architecture?
Kenny: Yep. So came in as Business Administration, and just decided this is the route, I'm gonna go, I can always be an architect if I need to have additional schooling, but gonna go the business route. So I chose that and then had a couple marketing classes. And I loved them and found that strategic marketing was something I really liked. So how do you get in front of people? How do you understand audiences? How do you create engaging content, that's going to be something that resonates with people, and it's a little bit of sales, but I think it was more of a honest way of getting into sales because I didn't really want to trick people into buying things. That is more about how do you inspire people, you make them believe in something you're talking about?
Tyler: Yeah, I think it's funny because I think people think sales is a lot of like, manipulate relation, like scripts, like how do you corner someone then, but I think I've learned this from you. And I know we'll get more into this when we get into real estate in property management. But like, it's a lot more about that trust, building trust building, like solving people's problems genuinely. Yeah.
Kenny: And I think that goes a long way. If you're into the, the long game of things, which I very much believe in is relationships are the hardest sales and that comes down to trust and concern, integrity and truly listening to what their goals are. And if you're a good fit, it's gonna work out or not, you can label that and just move forward. And, and that's okay.
Tyler: I think for me, I'm curious to hear for you. I had to like learn this, like I naturally thought, you know, it's about saying the right things. It's about being persuasive though, Robert Cialdini, like influence persuasion, like marketing materials, and I realized it was like, all about me. And I had to like relearn in real estate being an agent like, Dude, it's all about them. Was that something that came natural to you?
Kenny: I think it is because I feel like I'm a natural listener before having to speak. So I I like asking questions and listening to people. And I think that's a skill I bring into a sales type role is just getting to know someone asking a lot of questions. And if at the end of the conversation, we ended up leaving and I didn't say much about myself, I'm totally fulfilled.
Tyler: So I know you're in real estate, you lead a property management company, you're also doing some real estate sales and investing. So far in your story, I'm hearing nothing real estate whatsoever, completely marketing and creation. How did that switch come about?
Kenny: Yeah, I never thought I'd be in real estate. My grandpa had rental portfolios, and I liked real estate I always liked houses wanted to be an architect. And so I just thought, like houses are cool. I always knew I wanted to buy a house didn't really know what went into it. Coming out of college I was part of the Orr Fellowship program here in Indy, started by previous governor Bob Orr, and just look to create a way to keep top talent in Indy, rather than going to places like Chicago, Dallas, New York.
And so I really benefited from that program and just creating a connection of people like minded entrepreneurs in those first two years out of college. Through that I met a good buddy of mine, Matt Speer, and he is actually the founder of LIV Indy. And while we were in different career paths, in terms of companies, I was at Car Auction Services and he was at Bluebridge. And we're doing different things. He was doing real estate on the side as well. He was reading a lot about how to create generational wealth, how to have something that will last beyond just a paycheck. And something that creates financial freedom. Those are some of his early on goals, and just read a lot of books, listen to a lot of podcasts and got started in his own real estate investing. And that's how LIV Indy was born is more of a opportunity to be different within real estate, but also feel a personal lifestyle at the time. So that's kind of how that started. While I am also over here at Car Auction Services in a marketing role, my dreams and aspirations were let's be CMO. I want to be leading a marketing team, I want to be creating marketing plans, influencing people, and having conversations that are at the sea level is more strategic than having to be doing the day to day. But that quickly changed because the career path is just it's so long, and it's so within a box and it's so corporate, and I just didn't jive with that I had so many ideas and was being told wait was being told now those things don't work. And it's like, well, why can't we try them? I think there's so much beauty to trying something and failing, it's like, fail and learn from that. And then change that the next time. Don't make the same mistake twice, but be okay trying something it doesn't matter what industry you're in. Multi-billion dollar company, try new things. It's okay. But I think there's also a place for the people that come in and, and do a job. It just wasn't me started the started the path towards something with a little bit more flexibility. So moved from Car Auction Services to Springbuk. So health tech company, and the pace was a lot different. It was something that I'd come up with at Car Auction Services would take many months to implement. And it's just that kind of process. And something that you implement at SpringBuk would take a week to finish this week. And I liked that pace, a lot of fun.
Tyler: So just like kind of iterating implementing new ideas. And that evolutionary process in business is something that you really gravitate to
Kenny: I love it come up with an idea and implement it. And yeah, you can just do it. Yeah, that's fantastic.
Tyler: Do you think that in general, and we're gonna get into your I guess, like business ownership philosophy later? But do you think that your, I guess, like desire to implement new systems comes from a more creative place or more like data driven place?
Kenny: That's a good question. I think it's probably both I do you like analyzing the data, I like seeing the results, I like to see how things perform, and then watch the numbers change as they go. And then that is a true definition of did this work or not. And you can iterate quickly, you can make quick changes. Part of marketing is testing things, right. It's, let's throw together a case study. And let's have everything be the same. But let's change the title, and two different ones and see how it performs. Let's change the call to action on two different ones, see how it performs. And then you just look at the data and you see how it performs. And that's that's fun. And it's actually tangible results.
Tyler: So this Matt Speer guy is interesting to you. He's doing stuff in real estate, what was he doing in real estate at the time, what was his strategy?
Kenny: He was doing a little bit of everything. He did some wholesales. He did some rentals on his own. He did some retail transactions, and then ended up starting a brokerage and LIV Indy became born and was really born. Like I said to, to kind of feel some of that lifestyle, but also it was more solving a problem in the industry. He didn't see property management as being effective. Things like poor communication, really expensive fees that just weren't transparent. And then a really high amount of vacancy. And so those were things that he wanted to solve. And he did it through his portfolio and through a small customer base at the time. I think it was about 18 units started back in 2017.
Tyler: Yeah, property management definitely is one of those like notorious industries that no, really, I've been pitched on trying to join. And I've always had like, no way you're gonna get me into property management. At the time when you were kind of talking with Matt, did you think property management was going to be your thing or did you think this was just a side thing?
Kenny: I thought it was a fantastic side hustle. There was quite a bit of money made in it and that was fun. And it field some some quick vacations and some extra little fun things and I was like this is a great moneymaker. I love real estate. I love being around it, but I still had the path set. I really like marketing. I really want to be CMO. It's a little less risk averse is what I thought at the time, you know, climb the corporate ladder and then go that route but didn't have any interest at the time and joining full time.
Tyler: So, how did you make the leap from Springbuk where I would assume you're on a salary to going full-time into this income unknown? So to speak position with LIV Indy? How did you make that leap? Yeah. What did that look like?
Kenny: Yeah, good question. It was a all thanks to Matt, he took a bet on me and said, you're the right person. So you need to come in and build the business and take it to the next level. And that's going to require you leaving your job. And he gave me a six months salary, agreed to it. And we agreed to a start date and an end date on the salary and said, at the end of the salary, your 100% commission, you got to figure it out. So that was extremely frightening and exciting all at the same time. And so, you know, part of that decision is a lot of prayer involved and chatting with my wife about it. And a little bit of savings account is back burner says hey, you know, if it doesn't work out, doesn't work out. I can always go find a job. It's kind of what if you need to make money can go get another W2 somewhere. But I saw I thought we don't have kids were young, why not? Let's just do it. So did it. Quit SpringBuk and join Matt full time. And it was so fun is, you know, he's frightened the salary. So I didn't have the money worries. And that was awesome. But it was a lot of whiteboarding, a lot of fun conversations, a lot of ideas that you quickly implement and realize they didn't work and a lot of learning a lot of learning in what
Tyler: What were you guys trying to do during the I just imagine you guys like getting this like, small, little cramped office with a whiteboard like this? Six months? Kind of like pressed against the time, especially for Matt, who I guess is paying you probably out of his pocket. And then you with a deadline of six months? What were you trying to solve? During that time
Kenny: Trying to solve how are you going to stand out and make your name known as a trusted property manager, and someone that's going to be the best without a ton of name recognition without a lot of experience without a lot of time under our belt? I mean, we're 30. It's not like we're old and been doing property management for a long time. So I think we came at it from a different approach. We both have tech backgrounds, and we leverage technology to be different and push the barrier within a dated industry. I probably mentioned it's been around for a long time. And there's lots of ways you can do it. But leveraging technology to be efficient, and make sure that things don't fall through the cracks. Keep communication abreast all the time. It's very important in an industry where people are trusting you with millions of dollars worth of assets. You have to be able to communicate well and be people that are above reproach and make sure you're you're just communicating well.
Tyler: And how many units did you have on that you were managing when you started?
Kenny: When I started it was 18 units.
Tyler: And was this like, just a couple portfolio managers? Or was this like 18 different?
Kenny: Yeah, so with a handful of Matt's units at the time, he had a small portfolio, and then a couple different owners.
Tyler: And were you an investor? Did you own rental properties at this time?
Kenny: At this time? I had my own house.
Tyler: Okay. What did that play into your decision to join LIV Indy?
Kenny: No, I wanted to have rental properties, but I knew it's going to take a little bit to build up that portfolio. And so we bought a property, my wife and I, in South Carmel in Homeplace neighborhood, and I thought this is a great area to have a starter home and a great area that will be highly desirable long term-because of the school district. And so we bought that as a small 3 bedroom 1 bath 1,100 square feet for $152,000. So that's been a fantastic house. Two years later, we moved out bought in Broad Ripple and turned it into a rental and rented for $1,600 a month and our mortgage was $750. So we're cashflowing really well and paying myself as property management. So you know, I do pay into the business for my own units because believe in it, and it was doing really well as a great first rental and so then it just grew from there.
Tyler: Do you still own that Homeplace rental?
Kenny: I don't actually so just under the five-year mark was we lived in it for two years and we sold it and made a nice profit taking advantage of the top of the market here with the COVID prices and I didn't have to pay taxes on the profit.
Tyler: Did you think that you were at the top of the market when you sold that?
Kenny: No, but I thought, here's an opportunity, I won't have much longer in terms of avoiding a tax bill in terms of profits. And then also, it was a strategic move, I decided in the last year to dump the profits of the business into the business and grow it instead of paying myself. So I've not taken a salary for almost a year in the business and decided to sell our home as our income.
Tyler: So that's wild. All this time you've been building out this LIV Indy dream. and you really weren't making and still aren't making any money from it.
Tyler: Is there an end in sight?
Kenny: Yeah, we plan on doing owner distributions come this 2023.
Tyler: Okay, so you're just living off the proceeds from selling these properties?
Kenny: That's right on home and being an agent last year. So right, yep.
Tyler: So what balance right now do you have between running LIV Indy and being also in real estate sales?
Kenny: So it's not a huge focus in terms of retail transactions. For us, we're investor-minded agents. So we help investors build their portfolios, we'll represent them on market and off-market deals. And primarily, my responsibility is empowering our agents to do that. So I don't do a lot of active retail, I don't do the transactions, we have five agents on the team that represent investors. And then we have an operations team, a leasing team and maintenance team.
Tyler: And so for people that don't know, kind of real estate agency, there's not many good qualified investor agents out there, in my opinion, you know, you come to mind and probably only a handful of other people that I know of, in the vast sea of tons and tons of agents, what does it mean to be an investor minded agent,
Kenny: It is definitely different. You have to know how to analyze a property, you have to know what the market rents are, you have to know what your CAPEX and repair costs are going to be. So your capital expenditures are things like your roof, and your HVAC and your AC larger costs. And you have to know how to plan for those. So you're managing somebody else's investment. And you have to expect for these types of repairs to come up. And know that the appreciation of the property, the rent and cashflow, versus your expenses are going to offset the expenses.
Tyler: And so LIV Indy, from what I can see is kind of trying to be this almost like concierge service for investors. Right?
Kenny: So it's a one stop shop. So an investor will come to us and say, Hey, we've got an investment opportunity. And we want to park our cash in real estate, or want to invest into real estate and have it make us a return and hope that that's going to be better than the stock market or their 401K or other traditional investment routes, or just another way of diversifying their their long term investments. So then we help them find that property. And then we put it under management, we manage it for a small fee. And then we take care of it for them. And we monitor its performance over time. And we can be a strategic partner that will say either, hey, this isn't performing as well down the road, and we recommend you sell it and then put the money into something else. We can be that strategic advisor along the way.
Tyler: And so to kind of play devil's advocate for a second. I obviously know the answer this as a real estate agent and a person who owns rental properties too. But those people that say, you know, the markets inflated so much real estate, how can that be a good investment right now, at the tail end of 2022. With all this appreciation that's happening, and it seems we could be at the edge of a cliff? What do you what are you saying to investors right now?
Kenny: Yeah, good question. It is an interesting market right now. And rates keep climbing. And I think they'll continue to climb, but I think they'll fall. So real estate is a long-term investment, and now might be a hard time to buy. And I think that's, that's true, but you have to be strategic. And I think now more than ever, you can be patient and you can be picky. And I think if you keep those two things in mind, as a buyer, you're still going to find wins out there. You just have to be okay with waiting a little bit longer. For the right deal, the right opportunity, make sure you run your numbers, be conservative with them. Don't try and paint a pretty picture with your numbers and expect it to come to fruition just play the numbers of what we got. We have you know unique opportunities with different lenders, if you go ask a credit union, maybe they'll give you a six and a half percent on a portfolio instead of the mid sevens where we're at right now in our rate so that those small things will help. But yeah, use a team that uses boots on the ground to make smart investment choices and know what those market rents are going to be. But in terms of Indy, it's not taking as big a hit as some of your other areas in the nation like California or West Florida, you're still gonna see appreciation in Indy, you're still gonna see prices climb, and you're still gonna see rents climb, the demand is still there for rentals and supply is still low enough that people are needing to rent. So it's a good place to be investing and a good place to continue buying even at this season. So I'd love to get into more of that sometime, too.
Tyler: Yeah, I think that you guys really hit the timing. Well, in terms of Indianapolis, just being this amazing city was such a bright future narrative. And you guys really coming onto the scene being that one-stop shop. Do you feel like you guys are kind of like in the right moment to grow and capitalize on this?
Kenny: Yeah, I think so mostly because I think one of our one of our values is wind together. And it's, it's an approach that I think investors are really appreciating right now. And I say that because some property managers will just look at their unit count, they'll just look at numbers. And they'll just look at growing their portfolio to 1000 units under management. And while that's successful, and that's on our radar, but that's not our core focus, it's win together, this is a team thing. And we want to be a creating a partnership mindset where we grow with the investor, and we grow too. So I think that's where we set ourselves apart. And a lot of that's achieved through the trust and the integrity that we talked about earlier.
Tyler: And so for people that are listening that are like, you know, I've never gotten into real estate, LIV Indy is like this one-stop shop. I need to maybe talk to Kenny about investing in Indy real estate. Do you work with first-time investors? Is that something that? And is that something you guys do? And how? How much work? Do you think it is to kind of do that first deal? What are the things that a new investor has to think about?
Kenny: Yeah, we absolutely work with first-time investors and love having those conversations there. A lot of fun can be a lot like this, and just learning about the market and learning about what goals you have. But one of the biggest questions I'll ask early on in investing is what's the why? Why are you investing, it's gotta be beyond just making more money, otherwise, it's not gonna work. And it could be, you know, you want to retire at X amount of age, you want to quit your job, or you need a little bit extra financial freedom so that you can spend more time with your kids and family is a lot of people's why. That's, that's my why. And I think that if you know your why it'll give you that extra motivation to actually pull the trigger when that time comes, right? Because it is scary investing and actually writing that offer, submitting that first offer. If you get under contract, now you're freaking out, can I afford this? Will the rent actually come? Trust your team? Have a good team in place? And then remember your why and do it?
Tyler: Would you say that you have to have a lot of money saved up? Because I think that's I have a lot of friends who, you know, that's what they say to me, Hey, when I have more capital, when I have more money, you know, then I'll invest in real estate. What would you say to that type of person?
Kenny: I don't think you always need to have more money, I think you can get started in investing in lots of different creative ways. You should look into what's called house hacking, maybe you buy a duplex, and you rent out the other side of the duplex and you end up living almost for free, or sometimes cashflow surprisingly. So the rent rates are going up so high in Indy that you could rent out one half of a duplex for $1,600. And your mortgage might only be $1,500 a month or $1,200 or whatever it ends up being. So you're making a little bit of money living for free. And then I think that philosophy of investing and saving money is whatever you were paying, don't look at that as a raise, look at that as a way to invest and save for the next downpayment. Then you end up becoming in a better position and a year or two to make that next purchase. Then next purchase, you move out of the duplex and you're able to rent that other side. Now you have two sides and you're also living for free with your next house. So now you have three units. And it just it snowballs a lot quicker than people think.
Tyler: Yeah, yeah, that totally makes sense. I actually unintentionally house hacked with the first house I bought. I had two tenants. They're just buddies I was renting a room to and I was living in like a net surplus of about $200 a month nice living for free on a pretty meager teacher salary. But it didn't seem meager because, you know, my fixed expenses were so low. Yeah, so I can attest like the house hack can truly change someone's trajectory for the rest of their life if they choose to do that in real estate and have tenants, you know, pay your mortgage down. It's crazy. So what is the what is your day to day look like? What are you focused on mostly these days,
Kenny: Most of my time right now is team growth. So our team is growing and people is a big part of the business, a business doesn't exist without the people internally. So spend a lot of time making sure the team is empowered to do what they're needing to do they have the resources needed, answering questions, solving problems, and I'm here to help.
Tyler: That's awesome. What do you think? Someone who's building a team, you're building a team of agents and property managers? What advice would you give to someone who's, you know, maybe new to building a team?
Kenny: I think the classic saying of fire fast and hire slow. Think that's key. And I've run into some roadblocks with that, and made some wrong decisions. But that's, that's been good. And you learn from that. So I think if you can do that, ask a lot of questions. Don't just hire the first person you get along with, don't just hire the person who's agreeing with everything. Make sure you're asking good questions and doing some good digging, and then hire and fire based on your values, figure out your core values, and then make sure those people fit and are heading the same direction with you.
Tyler: Yeah, that's really I've never heard that hire. What is it? What does it mean?
Kenny: It's fire fast and hire slow,
Tyler: Fire fast, hire slow? I'll definitely take that with me when I start building out a team. Um, what we have there been any really, I guess, challenging times with LIV Indy, moments of doubt? Could you walk me through maybe a time that you know, you weren't sure about all this? And maybe you wanted to go back to w two and go?
Kenny: Yeah, that there's always moments. I think someone told me early on and in my seeking, should I go into this, this business full time and be an entrepreneur, someone said, well, being an entrepreneur, you're gonna have the highest highs you'll ever have. And you'll have the lowest lows you've ever had. So I can attest to that. I've said that that's true. Some of the highs have been extremely high. And they've been really awesome. Whether that be income team, empowering people, all the above, it's, it's been fantastic. Some of the lows have been around people income, it's just sometimes it goes dry for a bit. And that's really challenging. You have to plan strategically, you have to know how to balance your finances. So I've learned that, for better or for worse, it's been really good for the long-term, trajectory. And then also people I think, I learned that I trust too easy early on. So putting responsibilities into people and thinking that they're going to follow through and do it to a level of perfection that you expect yourself to do is just not ever the case. No one's going to care as much as you do as the owner, no one's can have as much desire to push it forward as much as you do. But that's okay. They don't need to this isn't their business, as long as they're motivated and believing in the values and understand the vision and executing on their own expectations, set clear performance indicators and track them and talk about them often. Those are those are key ways to build a team. But yeah, I think I think some of the valleys have been trusting too much, and then finding that they are either taking advantage or just didn't understand.
Tyler: Hmm. Was it hard for you to learn how to fire people?
Kenny: Yeah, gave too many second chances.
Tyler: Yeah, that's good feedback. Okay, so I have a few like quickfire questions, kind of wrapping this up here. So how do you know if you should go into entrepreneurship? You're in entrepreneurship. Obviously, every day is different incomes not guaranteed? What would you say to someone that's like on the fence about that?
Kenny: I don't think it's for everyone. I think if you have a passion and a desire for building something, if you have a vision, and you want to work hard at it, and you're able to have an optimistic outlook often and not beat yourself up about something, this might be for you. So I think if you have those kind of, I guess soft skills, right? Are you a positive person naturally? Do you not take critical feedback personally? Do you just see failures as opportunities, then entrepreneurship might be a good route for you.
Tyler: On to the next one. Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneurship book?
Kenny: Yeah good question, my favorite right now is "Shoe Dog" which is the origin story of Nike. And its a memoir, awesome book.
Tyler: Yeah I've done it on audiobook, and people out there who are like runners or just have a long drive, such a good one. And he goes into all the mistakes he made in depth and so it's very vulnerable. This is an open-ended one, but why Indy?
Kenny: Why Indy. Well I ended up here you know. It wasn't by accident but not necessarily by choice and ended up staying here. And I don't see a reason to leave at this point. The cost of living is fantastic, the business is here and it's growing, doing really well, friendships made have been fantastic. So I see Indy being home for a long time.
Tyler: Do you plan to invest out of state or just in Indy?
Kenny: I'd love to invest out of state, yeah.
Tyler: Where would be, I'm selfishly asking as an investor, where would you like if you had to gun to your head had to invest in another state in another area, where do you think you'd go?
Kenny: I would go do a vacation rental and I would probably do a 30A investment down in Florida or a Gatlinburg bungalow or maybe even somewhere up in North Michigan.
Tyler: Yeah I've actually thought about pretty much all those, I think a mixture of you know personal use with investment. And a lot of people don't realize you can do like a second home loan if you're living there part of the year, 10% down, so many cool things in the world of real estate. Last question for you here, do you have a favorite restaurant in Indianapolis that you would want to share with people?
Kenny: Good question. Well for LIV Indy and a lot of strategic conversations and really big decisions, I'd have to go with Fat Dan's in Broad Ripple. Just a pile of grease and fat food and it's just a great burger, great wings, and creates good brain food for you.
Tyler: Dude, that's such a good call. After the Indy marathon me and my wife went there and it's like definitely my secret indulgence
Kenny: Yeah the guilty pleasure food
Tyler: Yeah if you're in Indy and haven't gone to Fat Dan's it's definitely a must.
Kenny: Highly recommend
Tyler: Yeah yeah. Well that was great, thanks so much for coming on the podcast and sharing a bit about your story Kenny it's been awesome to hear.
Kenny: Thanks Tyler, appreciate it.
Tyler: And for people who are interested in learning more about you and what you're doing, where can people find you?
Kenny: Yeah you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram and Facebook, either one.
Tyler: Awesome good deal. And for you guys out there I'm on Instagram as well at tyler_lingle, I'm pretty active on all the socials and happy to chat about entrepreneurship with any of you guys. Alright guys thanks for listening, and we'll be back for another one here soon!