Nishant Sondhi is a dynamic entrepreneur who embarked on a remarkable journey from India to the United States In 2018. He started his real estate career in the heart of New York City as a real estate agent in 2019. After experiencing success as an agent, he realized his true passion was combining the great relationships he was developing in real estate and providing them with fantastic real estate investments across the United States. In just a short period of time, he has helped his investors place funds in build to rent opportunities in South Dakota, Texas, and South Carolina through Sondhi Capital Group.
In this episode, you will be able to:
The key moments in this episode are:
00:00:00 - Underestimating the Work in Real Estate
00:05:08 - Transition from Real Estate Agent to Capital Fund Manager
00:09:03 - Real Estate as a Team Sport
00:11:27 - Building Investor Base and Finding Opportunities
00:13:05 - Importance of Location in Real Estate
00:13:58 - Build to Rent Properties
00:17:38 - Passive vs. Active Investing
00:22:02 - Working with Institutional Level Sponsors
00:24:32 - Building Trust and Long-Term Growth
00:26:12 - Building a Happy Investor Base
00:27:21 - Lean Business Vision
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That was also one of my clients pain points, was that when they are starting off, they didn't know. They grossly underestimate the amount of work it goes to actively buy property. Okay, buying the first, let's say a rental property, you have to work with a broker, mortgage lender. You're seeing a lot of real estate at that point. So that mindset shift is also really important when you're starting off that, okay, how can I get people together? So it's more like a team sport and actually get more deals done and end of the everyone, you enjoy the process more and end up making more wealth and move towards financial freedom.
Welcome to the REL Freedom show, where we inspire you to pursue your passion to gain time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. I'm your host, Mike Swenson. Let's get some REL Freedom together. Hello, everybody. Welcome to REL Freedom real estate leverage freedom, where we talk about different ways that people are building time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. And I say this a lot. I really love to share people's stories of their journey through real estate. And I think what's really important for people, if you're listening to this and you're on the sidelines, is figuring out a way to get in the game in some way, shape, or form in real estate, and your journey can change. You can find out maybe a different spot where you're a little bit more excited to work and it'll evolve over time. And so I think sometimes people are afraid to get in, because when they get in, they think they're kind of stuck on that path. And the reality is there's this huge entrepreneurial playground of fun and exciting things that you can do when you get into real estate. And so we're going to talk today about somebody's journey. So we've got Nishant Sondhi here, and you came to the United States from India back in 2018. So not that long ago, you were a real estate agent in New York, and then now you are a capital fund manager helping people to invest in real estate. And so we're excited to talk about your journey, how it's evolved and what you're doing. So welcome to the show.
Thank you, Mike, for having me. I'm excited to speak with you today.
Why don't you just start a little bit, talk about your background coming to the US and getting started here, and we'll take it from there.
Perfect. So I was born in New York, and I stayed here for a couple of years before moving to India. And that's pretty much where I grew up. I did my undergrad education, my postgrad, and being a us citizen, I always wanted to come here and give it at least a shot so that I could later in my life not regret it or at least know how it's like being over here. So that motivated me. In 2018, I was engaged and I need to go to the US and figure this thing out. I was engaged at that time, no real plans. And before coming to the US, I've been in the healthcare business and primarily in sales and sales management roles. So I was business development, entrepreneurial roles, and despite some corporate experience, I had largely startup experience when I came here. And I was looking for the next opportunity for myself. I got exposed to real estate events in New York City. And when I started to attend these events, a lot of them were about fix and flip, wholesaling, building, went through rental property, Airbnb, and I was really fascinated because there's so many opportunities out here and really wanted to get involved at some level. And I had that shiny object syndrome when I started off. I won't lie, because there's just so much to do with real estate. So I gave myself one year when I took up a job in healthcare to just understand how the US market works, working with us consumers. Meanwhile, I was looking for opportunities in real estate, and I thought starting off as a real estate agent in 2019 would be the right next step because there's slightly less friction as compared to other areas. Like if you're getting into investing, wholesaling, fix and flip. I could see a check not too far away from me because I've been in sales. As mentioned earlier, I come with a sales background. The starter fees was not really high, just $1,000, give or take, depending on which brokerage you joined. So that felt very appealing for me to start in 2019. So that's just a very high level overview of before 2019, what led me to the US.
So then getting started in real estate, you went full time after that first year and you just kind of went both feet in, or was it a little bit of a 1ft in real estate, 1ft in your previous job before you eventually went full time into real estate?
I went full time and within twelve months, and it was just three months since I got married. So I overestimated how easy it's going to be and underestimated the challenges. I'll be fully transparent. I didn't join any real estate sales team either. So I started off with rentals in the city and that was the fastest way for me to get involved, and I was working overtime because I wanted to break into sales. And it's in 2020 that I got my first few big opportunities. But then Covid happened, so that's the time that really, I learned persistence, and I really had to make it work at that point. And I'm grateful. I got good listings, I had a few good sales, and that kind of set me in a good path in 2021 and 2022. But when I was a real estate agent in the city, one thing I learned is that it's a great way to build relationships. When you're entering the real estate business, you're learning about your customers problems, and you spend a lot of time with your clients. When you're helping them buy or sell a home, give or take, it can be a three to six month process. It's not just the actual service that you're doing, but the reporting back to them. You understand their pain problems. You work in their timelines. And while I enjoy being an agent, I want to do something which was a lot more scalable. And what I defined by that is I wanted to help more people in real estate. Being a real estate agent is a great business, though it's very locally dominated. For example, when I was in Manhattan, I was primarily working in midtown, east and Upper east side, and I didn't know much about Upper west side or downtown similarly. And it's similar with real estate agents not only across the country, but the world. And it's in early 2023. And just hearing a lot of my customers problems were like, hey, I want to get involved in real estate, but what do I do? I don't have time, or, oh, I don't have time to go 20 miles north from New Jersey in the weekend to look at properties. I don't know where to start from. And these are pain points I was hearing way too often. And that motivated me to get into the investing world early 2023. So I grant a lot of my transition into the capital raising fund management space because I was able to understand my customer problems really well that I dived in in 2023 into the investing world.
For me, being an agent working with investors, I saw the idea of you kind of said scalability, right? Like, when you're selling personal residences, it's kind of like every year begins at zero. And so it's who's looking to move this year? How do I help those people? And then the calendar turns, and it's like, okay, who are we going to help this year? But I know, working with investors, it's like, okay, now we have a chance to build something, because a lot of times the investors are going to hold properties or they're going to be building their portfolio. So you can have relationships with people that want to stay with you long term. And while somebody might choose to buy or sell a piece of personal residence, it might be 510 years before they have their next one. But if they're an investor, you get a chance to do multiple transactions in a year or help them multiple times and really build deeper relationships with people versus having this really wide net mentality with residential real estate. You can go deeper with people because you're interacting with them more throughout the year and helping them multiple times in a year or in multiple years in a row.
That's a great point, Mike, because like you rightly said, it gives an opportunity to go deeper their relationships. When you're in residential space, most people only transact once in five to seven years. Granted, there could be some circumstances they may want to sell or buy before, but by and large, people are not transacting every year. Also in the investing space, I realized that I can work with people, quite frankly, throughout the US or even the world, if anyone is interested in investing in us real estate. So those are motivations. And I just want to add one more point that I feel could be helpful for your listeners is that real estate is a team sport, end of the day, and there's a lot of work which goes before any transaction. And that is also one of my clients pain points was that when they are starting off, they didn't know, they grossly underestimate the amount of work it goes to actively buy property. Okay, buying the first, let's say a rental property, I have to work with a broker, mortgage lender, you're seeing a lot of real estate at that point. So that mindset shift is also really important when you're starting off that, okay, how can I get people together? So it's more like a team sport and actually get more deals done. And end of the day, you enjoy the process more and end up making more wealth and more towards financial freedom.
For me, too, just probably we're in similar shoes, I would think. I thought working with investors, it was like, okay, the more I learn about the investment side, it's going to help me personally with my own wealth building journey. And so if I help sell residential properties, it helps me make money as a sales business, but it's not helping me build wealth. Where if I'm analyzing deals, building relationships, and building partnerships with people that want to invest in real estate, that's going to build and compound over time as well. So I saw that as an opportunity where it matched up. I felt like I can kind of double dip my time. I'm helping people and I'm also helping myself at the same time because everything I'm learning, I can apply myself.
Absolutely. It's like financial advisors or stock analysts, they know the best about their own trade. So when we're in real estate and we're helping investors, we have a sense of the market and opportunities. So as we are helping others, we can definitely help ourselves. And that's what happens with the investors I've been working. I'm sure you've seen as well a lot of time investors want to partner with you, and it doesn't necessarily have to be always from financial perspective. You can add value in tons of ways for them. You can negotiate good deals for them, you can represent them for a lot of those deals, for negotiations. You can pick up the phone, call people in certain markets for them. So that partnership I really enjoy with the investors.
So talk a little bit about your transition then. Kind of outside of being sales focused to now having this capital group and doing capital management, how did you start to build and develop new relations, start to find different opportunities for people to invest in? Kind of talk about that transition phase a little bit.
Sure. So it helped in full transparency, being a real estate agent, New York, because that was the credibility part. I'd already built a good database and started off by just reaching out to my network, my entire database, sending them an email and asking them that if I were to find good investment opportunities, would they be open for me to at least sending them across. Many people said yes. Many people referred me. So that was a great way to start with. And I think that's good advice for anyone starting off in real estate. People grossly underestimate the power of their immediate network. That's their friends and family. You just reach out to people, start speaking, just start making more contacts, you will find some good opportunities. I started off from there and I spent a lot of time educating my audience and building an audience. So we are living in a great time right now where we have tons of opportunities to put our thoughts across via different social media platforms, such as your podcast over here, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. And I found LinkedIn to be that social media platform, my choice, because I like to write more. So I was able to express my thoughts more often, share more videos, my newsletters, and slowly but surely more and more people started to find what I'm posting interesting and it started to resonate with people and then people were reaching out to me. We are scheduling calls. So that's how I was building onto the investor basis, by actually speaking to my customers problems, which is lack of time, lack of resources, not knowing where the good opportunities, and just having a good resource by your side. To answer your second question, how do you find good operators and opportunities? Being a real estate agent, I did develop a natural knack as well of looking for good opportunities because I've also helped investors before. But at the same time I did spend time networking. Is connecting directly with people, again via LinkedIn, sending them messages, emails. Sometimes they would reach out to me and identify which markets I'm focused on. That was really important because there are 50 states in the US you can't go all over, right? So I was focused on Texas, Florida, North, South Carolina, Tennessee. The reason these markets, because at a high level, I look at U Haul, where are people migrating to? And these states, where are more jobs coming across? And it just made more intuitive sense to me to focus on places where people are moving and then start looking for operators. Because if we remove all the noise, real estate, end of the day, the biggest driving factor is location. And what drives locations? People migrating, then opportunities. So I try to keep that aspect really simple. Then I reverse engineer to find the operators, the markets build relations. It should hit the kind of projected returns my investors are looking for, a good track record of the sponsor and then I get involved.
A big focus for you is build to rent properties. So talk about that opportunity. If I'm somebody that's investing or want to invest in real estate, there's so many different opportunities to do, whether it's fix and flips and multifamily value adds, all sorts of stuff, mobile home parks, self storage. But build to rent is a piece that's been pretty popular lately, and it's one of the hotter trends right now. So why focusing on build to rent opportunities?
That's a great question. So I believe we're in a housing crisis right now in the US, and I have a couple of reasons why I believe so. Firstly, the mortgage rates have recently been historically high. Granted, they are coming down, but they're slightly north of 7% as the video is getting as we are having this conversation today. Now, with high mortgage rates, supply levels are still limited in the market. And the reason being is that most homeowners in 2021 locked their mortgage rates below 5%. So they are not incentivized to list at this point. So we have less inventory and high rates. In fact, home prices have gone up in most parts of the country. Now, what's happened because of this is a lot of people have got priced out. In fact, Redfin recently came up with a report that in order for homes to become more affordable for a family that would buy a $500,000 home, which is making $85,000 a year, now needs to make $115,000 a year, or mortgage rates need to come down to, again, 3% levels, or prices need to come down by about 30% for things to be more affordable. Now, I don't see mortgage rates to be coming down 3% anytime soon, nor home prices to be falling by 30%. So I feel that there is that demographic between 35 to 45. Those younger families were looking for good gated communities, single family homes where no one's staying above you, below you, your own private lawn, you have a garage, a true american dream, and a sense of community where you're living. And that's what build to rent communities are really solving for for the next five to ten years for people who got priced out of the market, but they still are not staying in those rental apartments, and they're getting a feeling that they're staying in a community. Build to rent from an investment perspective is very appealing because, of course, it has that rental component. So the cash flow starts really soon. You're part of the development process at the get go, so you're obviously through the ride with the developer. And typically, if the project goes well, your projected returns are a lot better as compared to any value add deal. Value add deal for your listings are those projects which are already up and running. And you can also change build to rent into a multifamily in the future. There's no stopping. So you could still change these single family rental communities into sale units if the market demands. So what I love about build to rent is not only solving the problem right now, but also in the future. If there's a need for sales to convert them to sales, that can happen. Lastly, I also follow macro trends. So Blackstone recently acquired a company for $3.5 billion, which is into single family build to rent. So they've been going really heavy on the build to rent single family sector because they want to integrate this into their reits. Now, macro trends following what's happening in the housing crisis, and some level of my own intuition makes me believe that build to rent is probably the hottest asset class right now at least for the next few years.
What does that conversation look like with somebody? So you had mentioned you reached out to your database. Hey, just curious to know about, have you ever thought about investing? That's one of the questions I teach the agents on my team is if you can have one question, it's, have you ever thought about investing in real estate? Right. It's very open ended, non committal. People can then share like, oh, I've thought about that. I haven't thought about that. Tell me more about that. So as you were kind of combing through your database to see who were kind of the hand raisers, the people that were interested, how does that conversation work to. Okay, now I'm ready. Here's my money to invest in that thing. You had mentioned, education. So kind of walk through that education piece. If I don't know much or I've never participated in investing to now I'm in an asset. How do you help walk them through that?
Sure. That's a great question. So my reach out to my database or anyone I'm speaking to is full transparency. I let them know that I have partnered with top operators in these emerging markets, the Texas, Florida, South Dakotas of the world, where we are primarily focusing on multifamily and build to rent. Very transparent, looking at doing about four to six offerings per year. These are passive opportunities that will have potential of cash flow growth and tax depreciation benefits. So yes, if this appeals to you, then maybe it's worth having a conversation or joining my email list. So I kind of laid out straight for them. Now, one thing I want to mention to your listeners as well is, and which I do to all my investors, and it's a part of it actually goes well with the second question you asked regarding education. I spend a lot of time explaining to the investors what's the difference between active and passive investing. And for some people, active investing is great. Where you are yourself involved in buying a property, you're working with a realtor, the whole process, getting a mortgage, you're responsible for getting tenants, or you hire a property manager, you are investing time. And more often there are more resources as well. It's a great and proven way to get into real estate. Their issue is scalability. With passive real estate investing is or syndications, where multiple investors are pooling resources together into a real estate project. And then we have a general partner who's responsible for the day to day operations. It's your choice. Do you want to be the pilot in a plane or you want to be a passenger. So this appeals more to those investors who want to diversify into such markets but don't have resources to do so. This appeals to those investors who are busy professionals, either in their w two s or in their businesses, and they're looking for trusted people to partner with. If you are someone who wants to be involved, and guess, how can we increase the rents or when the property should sell? You want to be involved in the day to day operations. Maybe the active side is better for you. And I'm not a good fit, and I can probably recommend agents or realtors across the country for you. So establishing that is important and then spending time on, okay, how the returns work. The capital stack works. Typically what the minimum investments are, minimum investments, just so your audience also knows, is typically between $50 to $100,000 in the kind of projects which you are looking for. So again, it's hard on money, but let's put it like that, that you can invest in two projects by putting $50,000 each versus one project going for $100,000 and the extra fees. And another point I'd like to add is if you're in the active side of things, and a lot of investors overlook this, that there are high transactional costs in this country. So when you are buying real estate, there are tons of fees from your bank, fees that could be realtor fees, depending on which side the court judgment goes. When you're selling, you have listing agent fees. So there are a lot of fees associated, which you also need to factor in before you buy real estate, and you're not seeing that money ever again. So you have to account for everything when you're looking for returns and really value your time as well to what's the process for you? That's a high level ob? I'm happy to go more in detail into the education aspect, but identifying what your goals are, your lifestyle goals are, and what I've noticed is that investors who want to go into the passive side of things want to be involved, but they really value their time.
Yeah. And I think it's great. I mean, I love syndicating because it is for the people that aren't in real estate full time. It's the best of all worlds. I get to participate in the returns that investing in real estate will get, and I don't have to do any of the work. And that's where it comes down to picking the right person, somebody that you trust that's going to manage your money well and do a good job. So it's not easy to do that. You've got to find the right projects. But yeah, for somebody that's outside of real estate, you don't have to learn about it, you don't have to get your license, analyze deals. You just have to kind of link up with somebody that's doing something well and be able to work with them. So I think it's a fantastic opportunity for people to be able to get their money working for them in real estate without having to go through the educational process and swinging a hammer and flipping a house themselves. Well, there's a lot of time constraint there. If you don't have the time and you want the leverage and you want to be passive, these are great opportunities.
Absolutely. And these are institutional level real estate sponsors and operators who I participate with. So people who have a proven track record, who do this for a living, let's simplify it, who already have all their systems in place and it's more rinse and repeat for them. So at that point, we're getting involved and pretty much in the right with them. So my discussion with any of the investors is that why would you not want to join hands with a winning team? They already have the property manager in place, they already have the lenders in place, they already have done deals in this location. Probably they know a lot better than you and me. Also, it gives you an opportunity to look at many deals across in a year and pick and choose based on what you like, maybe a certain sponsor you like, or returns. So that's while I am working on an ebook, as I'm speaking with you, creating video content, my real advice to investors, even up and coming investors look at deals. That's the best way to learn. Just subscribe to a few with a few syndicators or people who can help you with investing options, like people like yourself. And that's a great way to learn, even if you're not investing. See, spend those good ten minutes to understand why did I receive this email? What was so good about this deal that even someone's putting a dollar in? And what am I missing out? What am I not seeing? Let me ask a few questions. Okay. Let me attend the webinar. So when that happens, what I've noticed is just to give some context, whenever a new investment offering comes, typically it gets subscribed in four weeks, means all positions get filled up in four weeks. But recently I had a deal in Texas that got filled in ten days, got oversubscribed. The reason being because the investors had spent time going through different deals and really identifying and what a good deal looks like. So when a good deal comes in front of you, you can move fast, rather than getting your ducks in a row at that point that, okay, I have more questions, or how does this work? And basically get your basics out so that when a good deal comes, you can move fast.
Yeah. And then when you think about long term here, if you're helping somebody make money on a deal, you do a good job. And then it comes time to sell that property and purchase an additional property, they can just continue to work with you doing a 1031 exchange and just continuing to grow. And so if you do a great job for them, it's a relationship you can have long into the future without having. You can add more investors, but your current investors will probably stay with you if you're doing a good job.
Absolutely. Also, I've noticed that investors start small because they want to get confidence, at least in the syndication capital space. But once they want to see how the experience is going, and the experience is not just limited to returns, of course you want to make sure that cash flows are reaching them on a monthly basis, quarterly, as you promised. Though one aspect a lot of syndicators or fund managers overlook is constant communication. And that's something which I learned. Being a realtor is almost over communicating on a monthly basis or quarterly basis, giving them project updates, those personalized text messages, just follow up phone calls, even if you know that you're not expecting business from that phone, but you're just touching base really goes a long way because those investors have their networks as well. And when they feel confident with you, you're going to get tons of referrals. So if you have like a good 3510 year vision, it's a lot of upfront work, maybe first few years, I agree. But if you give a great experience to investors, even if they don't get full returns, things happen. You don't get everything as planned. This is business. Look at stocks, how volatile they are. That's why real estate is still a very stable asset and it's more predictable. But I've noticed that investors are still happy to go along with you in the journey, provided they have been updated, they're having a good experience, they can trust you, and they're going to get more people along with you in the party. And that makes your growth a lot more smooth and fun as well. Quite honestly, like when I was been a realtor, I have gone through the process of cold calling for expired listings, circle prospecting just to let your audience know, calling homeowners with the hope that someone says yes and it can work at times, but it's not entirely a fun way to build a business. But referrals is fun. They are fun. So yeah, I just wanted to share that experience as well.
So you mentioned you've got a few different states that you're working in. You've done kind of build to rent. What would you see here maybe for the next three to five years as you're continuing to grow, what are some of the things you want to accomplish?
Well, the first thing I want to accomplish is to have a very happy investor base. And that happy investor base is only going to come when quality, they're getting quality projects backed by quality sponsors and a good experience in terms of investor updates, returns, et cetera. I've also started my own portal so my investors can go and see all of the investments in one place. They can even get all of the updates. For me, my customer satisfaction comes first. That's why my first goal, three to five years, is to just keep building on my base, giving them great returns. And after five years then I may have different ambitions to potentially growing my team. Though having said that, my long term vision is to build a very lean business. When I define my lean business is maximum me as a front face and two or three people along with me in a team. I believe with the kind of technology, resources and automations we have today, day and age, it is possible. And that aligns with my lifestyle goals as well. Being an entrepreneur, I want to have a business where it's location agnostic. At the same time, I don't want to have a very big team. So that after a point, no matter how much, if you grow really fast, the customer experience can get impacted. So I wanted to be lean. The customer can reach out to us at any given point of time. I know how my team is working by and frankly enjoying it as well. Awesome.
Well, it's fun to see how things have happened so quickly for you and shifted into an area that's worked really well for you and it seems like things are going well. So excited to see where you continue to grow and how things build. But yeah, people want to invest capital in real estate and so you're providing a great service by aligning good deals with good operators and matching them up with great investor partners. So for people that want to kind of learn more about what you're doing or reach out to you and see about those opportunities, how can they do so?
Sure. So the best way is you can reach out to my LinkedIn Nishan Sondhi regularly update at least five times a week. I'm posting over there about real estate and I'm sharing good resources updates what's happening around the market trends as well. And in the next few weeks I'm also updating my website so it's going to be under sundicapitalgroup.com or my name nishansundi.com where there'll be ebooks available on passive investing investor 101. So that should come up in a few weeks. So depending when you're listening to this episode, you can check those out as well though. Yeah, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. You could give a reference that you heard me on this podcast with Mike and I'd love to connect with you and even have a conversation offline if anyone's interested. Awesome.
Well thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story and best of luck as you continue in the future.
Thanks Mike. It was a pleasure. I enjoyed myself.