Clint Harris - Turning 2 KMarts, a Piggly Wiggly, and 3 Warehouses Into Profit Machines


Clint Harris originally was in medical sales and used real estate as a way to build income & wealth on the side. He built a portfolio of single-family homes, BRRRR's, small Multi-Family, short-term rentals. You name it, he's dabbled in it. What he found was all of these may have helped build income & wealth, yet didn't necessarily give the location and time freedom he was desiring for his future. He linked up working as a General Partner & doing Investor Relations for Nomad Capital and shifted his focus to syndication of self-storage units. This past year, his team helped turn 2 vacant Kmart stores, an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and 3 warehouses and turned them into $100M of Class A, climate-controlled, self storage units. Their goal is to hit $500M in assets in 5 years and $1B in assets in 10 years. Clint is also the host of the Truly Passive Income Podcast, and founded Going Coastal Property Management, a short-term rental managing company servicing almost 100 units in North Carolina.

In this episode, you will:

  • Learn how you can maximize your real estate investments with strategic diversification into alternative options like self-storage units.
  • Explore the untapped potential of self-storage facility investments and how, once set up correctly, can be much more passive than traditional multi-family real estate.
  • Harness the power of syndication for lucrative real estate ventures.
  • Strengthen your investment portfolio by diversifying across different debt structures.

The key moments in this episode are:
00:00:00 - Challenges of the Younger Generation
00:04:33 - Clint's Real Estate Journey
00:08:57 - Big Box Retail Conversion to Self Storage
00:11:45 - Self Storage Demand in Urban Markets
00:13:02 - Changing Trends in Self Storage Usage
00:14:18 - Creative Utilization of Space
00:16:27 - Passive Investment and Syndication
00:19:07 - The Power of Syndication
00:23:26 - Building Lifestyle Independence
00:25:59 - Diversification in Investment
00:26:24 - Pitfalls of Lack of Debt Diversification
00:28:17 - Contact Information 










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Clint Harris
Unfortunately, the younger generation is not able to buy the same way that they used to. They're renting, and a lot of them are getting pushed out to these smaller urban markets around there or suburban markets. So instead of renting a two bedroom condo for $1,800 a month, they'll rent a one bedroom condo for $1,300 a month and then spend one hundred and fifty dollars to two hundred dollars a month on a self storage facility. But because they're using it as an extension of the garage, an extension of the closet, it has to be well lit, easy access, clean, secure, and climate controlled. Welcome to the REL Freedom show, where.

Mike Swenson
We inspire you to pursue your passion to gain time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. I'm your host, Mike Swenson.

Clint Harris
Let's get some REL Freedom together. Hello, everybody.

Mike Swenson
Welcome to REL Freedom. Talking about building real estate, leverage freedom through different opportunities in real estate. And I say this a lot. One of the great things about being in real estate is you have the ability to pick and choose and kind of put together your own path. It's choose your own adventure. For those of you that read those books back in the day, and today's guest, Clint Harris, is a great example of that. So started out in medical sales, has some background in single family home investing, multifamily burrs. Also working with raising capital, short term rentals, short term rental management, host of the truly passive income podcast, along with Neil Henderson, Nomad Capital. In terms of raising capital for syndications, your focus right now is self storage. We'll talk about that. A lot of cool things happening. And then short term rental management. So you've done a lot and kind of done it all. So excited to hear your journey. Clint, thanks for coming on the show.

Clint Harris
Thanks, Mike. Appreciate that. Excited to be here. Yeah. I don't know how telling that is. It either means I did a lot of things. Okay. I don't know that I did anything really well by itself, but, yeah, that's the beauty of real estate, right, is that I've done a lot of things, believe it or not, even though they're wildly different assets and different strategies, there's a lot of different continuity and you kind of take that and then figure out what you want to look like for you in terms of how active or passive you want it to be and what your financial goals are.

Mike Swenson
Yeah, I was going to say my sister, every time I talk with my sister because she lives out of state, she always jokes with me like, Mike, I have no idea what you have going on right now. It's always something different. It's always something new. And maybe that's a little bit of kind of that achiever personality where you're always climbing that mountain and it's different things and you're honing in on what's a good fit for you and the life that you want, the goals that you have. And so that changes as you learn more. You adapt, you adjust, you tweak things, you refine things, and put in systems to be able to scale things. And so it is always evolving and adapting. But share with us kind of a little bit about your journey. Let's go back and the early side and kind of how you got into the real estate, the why behind it, and what you're hoping to accomplish through it.

Clint Harris
Yeah, absolutely. So, Clint Harris. I'm 41 years old, married with two little boys, a four year old and a nine month old. But I started out with a career in medical sales. I spent 16 years selling and implanting pacemakers and defibrillators. So I worked in cardiology. That's kind of a young man's game. You're working nights and weekends and taking call. And I knew it was something that I didn't want to do forever. I've always been drawn to an entrepreneurial side of things, and specifically real estate. So in my mid 20s, my first house was a duplex. I bought a house. I lived in one half, rented the other half to a buddy, and lived there for free. And, boy, I was onto something. I was hooked from then, right? Thought I was a genius before I'd ever heard of the term house hacking. Fast forward a few years, my wife and I. This is 2010 to 2013. The market was still really beat up from the post 2008 crash. We ended up picking up nine single family homes. They weren't section eight, but they weren't much better. We flipped a couple of homes in there with some limited success, never lost money, but never did what we were supposed to do. We finally hit one. I'll call it a home run. Did really well, but we dabbled in various different areas of real estate with limited success. I took a promotion and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, at the beach in 2017. And that was the first time that we moved into a market that really had the opportunity to have success with short term rentals, specifically Airbnbs. So we bought a duplex at the beach, two blocks off the water in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. We moved into one half that was a three two. We rented out the other half, which is a three two. As an Airbnb, we did 57 grand our first summer, and that was really eye opening for us. So fast forward a little bit. We knew we needed more of those, so in a roundabout way, we used arbitrage for the first one. But we picked up a quadplex, then another quadplex, then another quadplex, and got the long term tenants out of those units. They were all month to month, hadn't had rent increases in eight to ten years. And we got those tenants out. We renovated the properties and we converted them to short term rentals, which like three to four x the rent, just that asset class. Conversion of one asset class to another drastically changed the rental income there. And that was a big step towards us hitting financial freedom. It was a wildly active investment strategy, but it was a big step towards what I eventually knew was going to be an off ramp for medical sales. We tried to find a property management company to take those off of our plate and were unsuccessful finding anyone that could hit the numbers that we were hitting. So along with some partners, we started a property management company called Going Coastal property management, which manages my 14 listings and another 85. I've got some fantastic operating partners. The best thing I ever did was get out of their way and let them do what they do. And from there, very active investment strategies. And so in the pursuit of things that were drastically more passive and more lucrative, that pushed me into self storage and eventually into big box retail conversion projects and syndication.

Mike Swenson
Let's jump right in, because I think we'll spend a little bit time talking about the self storage and the big box retail. But you had mentioned to me offline last year you had two kmarts, three warehouses, and a grocery store that you guys acquired and converted. And so talk about the why behind that, the reason for choosing those types of properties and what you're doing with them.

Clint Harris
So this kind of actually reminds me of what you said that your sister mentioned about never knowing what you're up to. But there's always some strategy and a lot of different things that you can do, right? A lot of what you learned through real estate. There's a lot of continuity from one thing to another, even though they might be totally different, there's a lot of the lessons that are the same. So, like, for instance, when I was, I understood the power of multifamily and then the power of an asset class conversion from going from a quadplex with bad long term tenants to a quadplex with top rated Airbnb clientele. It really drastically improves the performance of the property and the revenue right. So those lessons were never really lost on me when I started looking around of, okay, we've got this property management company, and I've got these Airbnbs, but it's a wildly active strategy. What's one of the more passive strategies out there that I could possibly find? And it was to me that my journey led me to self storage and specifically syndication. So I met some unbelievable partners through the local real estate investing network. So, father and son construction, commercial construction team named Eric and Levi Hemingway, some of my best buddies, and my partners now that have a ton of experience in that space, and with my background in cardiology, knowing a lot of physicians, we partnered together. I raised capital from a handful of myself and a handful of doctors, and we bought a Kmart. This is in 2020, I believe. So we bought an 87,000 square foot Kmart in Reedsville, North Carolina, for 1.5 million. We put a couple of million into it, and we converted it to a class a, climate controlled self storage facility. If you think about big box retail, at one point in time, those 1200 kmarts in the country, they're all gone. But they were there all across the country, specifically in these smaller secondary tertiary markets. They were most likely the largest employer for these small towns. The towns typically grow around that area. Great visibility, great traffic count, great residential density in a one, three, five, and seven mile radius. Amazon has destroyed the big box retail space. So picking up these buildings was very easy because there's very little appetite for 80 to 110,000 big box retail. So we did that as a one off, just a joint venture kind of proof of concept. My partners have been doing self storage since 2006, had done a handful of other conversions, so they knew what they were doing. I was just kind of happy to tag along and help raise capital and do investor relations. So like you said last year, we are 506 b syndication called Nomad Capital. We've been doing it a little over two and a half years now. But, yeah, last year we did two kmarts, three warehouses, and a grocery store that we convert to class a, climate controlled self storage facilities. There's a huge value add. You change it from one asset to another, just like we did with those multifamily properties to Airbnb. You change the structure, you change the formula by which the asset is valued. You take a giant Kmart, you break it up into six or 700 units. You're basically renting people a box of air. There's nothing that sexy in the strategy, but when you have that huge asset class conversion, it's a massive forced appreciation ad. It usually means that we're going to buy it for a couple of million, put a couple of million into it. It's going to be worth 13 to 17 million stabilized, which means we can refinance, pay out all of our investors, pull a couple of million out for ourselves. All of that is typically tax free because it's a refinance and not a sale, which means it's not a capital gain. We hold the projects, we allow them to continue to cash flow, and we continue to scale. So we hit our two year goal, which is 100 million in stabilized assets under management. We've got a five year goal of 500 million and a ten year goal of a billion. And the reality is it's the same lessons I was learning when I was doing Airbnbs. It's the same lessons we were learning when we were building out a property management company or forced appreciation through renovation or staging. It's all the same. You just add a couple more zeros.

Mike Swenson
That's awesome. I'm frantically taking notes as we're talking because there's so much great information in there. So it sounds like Eric and Levi really helped kind of show you the path of how to do that. So, in terms of identifying these kmarts, are these in your market in North Carolina, or are they just nearby in North Carolina, or where are they kind of how far from where you're at?

Clint Harris
All over the southeast and yeah, to back they. Absolutely. I'm kind of a one trick pony, man. I'm a sales guy. I understand analysis. I can be an operator. I built a company from the ground up. I've operated it for several years. Again, the smartest thing I did was recognize people around me that were better operators than me getting out of their way. So I handle capital, raising, investor relations. They're doing the heavy lifting. They do the acquisitions, the construction, the property management, everything else. We've got a pretty well oiled machine at this point. And it is not because of me, it's because I recognize talent and jumped on their. So we're looking across the southeast, basically we're looking at feasibility study. Like where's the massive growth? Massive growth across the southeast. We're typically in north and South Carolina, Virginia, eastern Tennessee and Georgia. We're starting to look Alabama, a few other places, basically the Sunbelt. But we're not specifically looking at these larger markets like a Charlote, North Carolina, or a Raleigh. But we really like the secondary tertiary markets around there. What's happening is you're having massive growth in these cities. Unfortunately, the younger generation is not able to buy the same way that they used to. They're renting, and a lot of them are getting pushed out to these smaller urban markets around there or suburban markets. So instead of renting a two bedroom condo for $1,800 a month, they'll rent a one bedroom condo for $1,300 a month and then spend one hundred and fifty dollars to two hundred dollars a month on a self storage facility. But because they're using it as an extension of the garage, an extension of the closet, it has to be well lit, easy access, clean, secure and climate controlled. They're putting winter clothes in there, or kayaks and snowboards and mountain bikes and things like that. So it's not the same traditional baby boomer showing up twice a year for Christmas decorations and china cabinets. Living space has gotten so expensive that basically people are using it as an extension of their living space. So the good news is that gives us the ability to manage it with QR codes and touch screen kiosks as long as people have the ability to get in and out easily whenever they need to. So, yeah, across anywhere that the feasibility study is showing massive growth. That's where we're looking. And we're not looking for, it's not speculation. Right. We're not looking at a market where it's having growth, and we expect that there's going to be a need for that in the near future. No, they're already underserved. There's been so much growth there. The self storage market is traditionally very fragmented, a little mom and pop kind of broken up areas. So we'll come in, we'll pick up a big box retail building where everybody knows where that building is, great visibility, great traffic count. We drop in 100,000 sqft with 75 to 80,000. That being net rentable kind of really put your stamp on that market, and it's hard for people to compete with that.

Mike Swenson
Well, yeah, and like you mentioned, to your point, I mean, it's 600, 700 units. So it's got to be a place that's large enough that can sustain that. And then the other thing you had mentioned to me previously, to our conversation here is with the parking lots. If a Kmart comes in, you've got this monstrous parking lot. So you have the ability, because you don't need a huge parking lot, to have some additional revenue by selling that off, or what do you do with that?

Clint Harris
Yeah, potentially. We picked up a piggly wiggly grocery store in Macon, Georgia, for $850,000. We're going to out parcel the parking lot for half a million dollars. We don't need that much parking. And then we take the building and we convert it to a class a, climate controlled self storage facility that's worth in the realm of ten to 13 million. And you don't even need the parking lot. So it creates a lot of opportunity. With the Kmart 80 9100 thousand square feet, we're looking at putting solar on the roof. We're kind of waiting on the federal, the tax incentives to be there for that. If you're near a body of water or blue Ridge Parkway or something like that, then you can fence off part of the parking lot and do boat and rv storage. You can also, if you're near a major intersection with interstates, you can fence off part of the parking lot and do like tractor trailer parking. Or you can outsource it to just out parcel to a pet boys or a cookout burger or something like that. So the project itself has to stand alone, right. The building itself has to make sense for our investors and ourselves. But assuming it does, and we take the project down, our investors own that property, or sometimes in a fund, a portfolio of properties along with us. So whatever we do with it, whether it's out parcel, a parking lot, or solar or boat and rv, or outdoor non climate controlled units that are getting dropped in the parking lot, anything like that, that we decide to do is part of the equation. And they make capital off of that as well, equal to their percentage of equity. But the project itself has to stand alone. But yeah, along with the asset class conversion, it opens up a lot of opportunity for creative thinking.

Mike Swenson
And to your point, talking about your journey, you're moving from something that your earlier days, it's more high touch, hands on management to something like this. Like you said, QR codes and touch screens. Now it's just making sure the technology is there. But you don't have to have the same heavy management staffing presence that you would of owning multifamily, short term rentals, that sort of thing. And so it's mostly just hands off, passive.

Clint Harris
You nailed it. Think about this. Apartment syndications or investing in apartment complex, you're typically, of all the money coming in in an apartment complex, about 70% of it goes towards your expenses. Your office staff, your landscaping, your maintenance, your security, everything else. And about 30% is your net operating income. With storage, it's the inverse. About 30% is your office staff, your security cameras, landscaping, if you have any, et cetera. And the other 70% is your net operating income. And typically, as the facility becomes more and more full, that expense ratio actually drops. You go from 30%, maybe down to 22 23% because as you fill up, you don't have to advertise as much. Most of the people are staying in there for a pretty long period of time. We typically will have someone on site at one of our facilities until we hit about 60% occupancy. After that, we can move them off to another facility and continue to fill the facility at that point through online advertising, QR codes on the door, touch screen kiosks, people can pull right up, scan the code, and walk right in. So that obviously makes things a little bit easier. And yeah, you're exactly right. We're just leveraging the technology that's already there.

Mike Swenson
Now for people that are looking to invest passively in an opportunity like this. Obviously it's pretty simple to be able to do that through a syndication. Instead of having to go through the learning curve, having to go through the school of hard knocks, having to scale to the point to where I can buy my own Kmart and do it right, I can just link up with you and say, here we go, here's my money. You guys have already built out those systems. So talk about from a syndication standpoint, how a syndication can be a vehicle for somebody to achieve their real estate investing goals without having to go through and do it themselves.

Clint Harris
So syndication as a whole is just. It allows people to pool money together to take on real estate projects bigger than what they could do on their own. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And with these projects, there are tremendous pitfalls. These buildings are huge buildings. One small rounding error can cost you 100, 200, 300 grand. You're the one signing on the debt. It's millions of dollars worth of debt. You never know what you're going to find in terms of asbestos or anything else. Phase one studies, mitigation. Phase two studies. It's a lot, right? So the idea is, could you do this and take it on on your own? Probably. Most of our investors are high earning individuals that you don't have to be. We take non accredited investors, too, but our average investor is white coat professionals, physicians or people in the medical field or young it professionals, small business owners, traditionally people that are having success with what they're doing. And so the best thing for them to do is just keep the main thing. The main thing. In order to have success with real estate investing, you know this, and anybody that's been doing it long knows this, is you have to have three things. It's time, it's experience and money. Right. And the idea is, if you don't have time, then you can't get experience. But if you have money, you have capital. You can take that capital, partner with other people that are doing it full time to where their time and their experience can save you a lot of those headaches. And then a lot of times it's really easy in syndication to look at the deal. Like, look at an individual deal and you're betting on the deal. What you should really be doing is looking at the operator and making sure that if it's something you're interested in, that you're partnering with someone that you know, like and trust. Because the difference is, betting on a deal is like betting on a racehorse. Betting on an operator is like betting on a jockey who's going to ride five or six or seven horses in different races that year. Right? So that's the number one thing, is you and I both know that any deal is only as good as the person that operates it. So it's a situation where most people, it's better for them to keep the main thing, the main thing and partner with someone that can give them really strong returns and is out there doing it every day. And then you talk about the creativity, like, there's a lot of opportunity in our world right now, the opportunity to network and for you and I to connect. You're in Minneapolis, I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina. We would never have met otherwise except for podcasts and the opportunity to educate ourselves for free. So the fact that we can do that allows us to learn and educate and network so much better than ever before. And in fact, ihazard just say that I think we've got a better opportunity right now for people to make generational change to the way that their family thinks about wealth than ever before. We have more opportunity now than people ever had prior to 1015, 20 years ago, and that's probably going to consolidate and get harder in the future. But I think we've got a window here. It's our responsibility to really educate ourselves. The pitfall, and you said something earlier, alluding to this is like you can look at all these different deals and what you want to do depending on how much time it takes and things like that. The number one thing in my mind is don't focus on the returns you're going to get as much as focus on the lifestyle that you want. Because everybody starts out real estate investing, looking for financial freedom. But really, if you think about it, if you're willing to break it down, what you're probably looking for is financial time and location independence. Those things together create an independence of purpose. Like if you've got a 14 Airbnb units, like we did, and we reached some level of financial freedom, that's great. But it was not location independent and it was not time independent. And I couldn't go to the Bahamas for two months. If you're locked in, eventually, I think people get a little bit far down a pathway of building out a portfolio just focused on financial independence before you realize that that time and location independence is a big part of it. Especially, I know you've got kids, I've got two young boys. That becomes more important. And as you get older, I think most people find that time is the one non renewable resource. It's the most important thing. And so building out a portfolio that allows you to preserve that and go in a really passive direction is important. And that to me is the power of not only self storage, but also the power of syndication.

Mike Swenson
And for people that haven't been exposed to a syndication, we've had a lot of guests on here that have talked about different syndications and different areas of specialty within a syndication that they're focusing on. But like you said, the whole is better than the sum of the parts. And I think sometimes people think, if I want to build wealth in the real estate space. I've got to go through the school of hard knocks. I've got to become a flipper, do burrs, do it all myself. When you can really just go find a good operator and say, here's my money, take it. Now, like you said, it's got to be somebody, you know, like and trust and somebody who has good experience. But you can achieve the financial freedom of real estate without having to get involved yourself personally and roll up your own sleeves when you use the power of relationships. And even to that point, when I was talking to you earlier about the locations and finding the locations and all that, well, you've got great people around you that do that work. It's not Clint going and calling up the former Kmart owner, saying, hey, are you looking to sell? There's a system built up around you where you can plug in, play your role to the greatest that you can, and all these other people. It's an assembly line of experience. It's the location, identifying it, putting together the deal, the relationships with the people who want to invest, and all of that together is going to be far better and more efficient and hopefully make a lot more money than one person trying to be every piece in that chain link.

Clint Harris
Absolutely. We have acquisition teams, we have in house feasibility studies. We have third party feasibility studies. Like, by the time our investors hear about a deal, there's months of work that goes into it, and we have a lot of money sunken into it. So it allows you to skip a lot of the heartache. But even outside of that, yes, I raise capital. My job is to raise capital for the deals that we do. And I want to build relationships with these people because ultimately they're all interviewing us to see if they want to invest with us. But we're interviewing them, too. And I don't hesitate to tell people that if I don't think it's a good fit and they should not invest with us, that's fine. I would rather have that conversation up front because we're talking about being in business for a long time. One of the other things that syndication allows is for investors to diversify themselves. You can invest in an individual deal, or you can invest into a fund that might be split up across 510 or 15 deals. That gives you diversification across different assets. I encourage people to diversify across different assets, different geography and different operators. Don't put all your capital with us. That'd be great. I would love for your trust. That'd be amazing. But the reality is, spread it out with different assets, different geography, different operators, and build some stability in your portfolio. One thing that I think has been a huge pitfall for people in the last twelve to 18 months is people are diversified well, different operators, multifamily, rv parks, trailer parks, self storage, whatever. But there's a lot of people out there that did not think to diversify across debt structure. And if you could be across different operators, different geography, different markets, different local market drivers. But if everybody was using floating rate debt, you were exposed. And I've talked to people in the last few weeks that are invested in six different deals with different operators. Four of them have stopped distributions. One's having a capital call and one looks like it's going down, because even though they were well diversified, they were all at the mercy of the interest rates. So looking at that debt structure as another form of diversification is really important. And try to identify operators that don't use variable rate debt. That's one of the beauties of that. I don't like to brag on it too much, but it's one of the beauties of buying big box retail. Nobody wants these buildings. We can buy them for so cheap that we've never had to use fixed rate or variable rate debt. We always use fixed rate debt. We always plan to use fixed rate debt because there's just no competition for 100,000 square foot Kmart right now. Amazon took care of that for us.

Mike Swenson
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Clint, for coming on and sharing. You've got a ton of experience in a lot of areas, and you've really focused on kind of getting a little bit sharper, a little bit better, a little bit more clarity on your future goals and how you want to spend time. And that's the beauty for people that are looking to get into real estate, and real estate investing is, I think sometimes people feel like, well, I don't know what I want to do yet, so I'm just going to not do anything. And the key is your path changes over time. And so you could be in multifamily, short term rentals, syndications, and then any asset class within syndications, too. There's just a ton of opportunity. So I always encourage people, like, get in to figure out what you want to do to get better. Don't just sit on the sidelines. So for people that want to reach out to you, Clint, learn more about what you're doing and possibly get involved. How can they do that?

Clint Harris
To follow up on what you just said, I'll leave you with this imperfect action. Is better than perfect inaction. And the best way to reach me is our website is nomadcapital us. You can email me directly at Clint Harris at nomadcapital us or find me on LinkedIn.

Mike Swenson
Awesome. Thanks so much, Clint, for coming on. Really appreciated the conversation.

Clint Harris
Thanks, Mike. Appreciate your time. 


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