Insider Secrets Podcast Episode #39

Featuring guest: Ira Singer

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Guest Bio:

Ira Singer, principal, Mosaic Construction. As a relationship builder with more than 30 years of experience, Ira leads new business development, estimating, construction production, project management, and the management of trade partner and vendor relationships for Mosaic.  With offices in Milwaukee, Northbrook and Chicago and a team with experience in more than 10 States, Mosaic Construction is a design-build renovation firm focused on the needs of owners and property managers in the commercial, multifamily and residential sectors.  

Possible topics to discuss during the interview:

  • Low-disruption, high-impact multifamily renovation investments for the unique needs of any given building or portfolio.
  • How to size-up renovation needs before investing in a multifamily property.


Standout Quotes:

“Transformation doesn’t happen without a gameplan” – [Ira]

“A construction project is a journey, it starts long before there’s a hammer swung for demolition or site protection is put in place” – [Ira]

“Happy residents is your biggest ROI” – [Ira]

“The easiest answer to how you make a high stakes decision, is you surround yourself with people, teams, and advisers that are stakeholders and that are smarter than I am” – [Ira]

“If I can have smarter people in my life, it makes my job a little bit easier” -[Mike]

“Measure twice, cut once, that is not just in the field, but that is in anything that is a planned execution of a construction component, which means we’re living in the details” – [Ira]

“The way that projects get off- rail… it’s a poor set of plans”  – [Ira]

 “That is some of the lessons I’ve learned in all kind of projects that we’ve completed, that the details matter and you’ve got to ask good questions” – [Ira]

“Stand for something in terms of what you are going after,…What is the business strategy outline, or roadmap for what success looks like in your company?… speak to that excellence and why it matters” – [Ira]

Key Takeaways:

What is important to you?

Ira describes his personal and business focus in one word, ‘Diversification’.

Building Relationships is one of the core actions that make up the ‘6 Mosaic Actions’ at Ira’s company.

A construction project is a journey, it starts long before there’s a hammer swung for demolition or site protection put in place.

Sometimes the hoped-for prelim budget work doesn’t align with the market conditions, where you have to go hard and go hard fast.

WiFi is a great example of a low disruption high ROI renovation in these times.

Making high stakes decisions: Ask questions, do the research, and surround yourself with stakeholders that are smarter than you.

Construction is an imperfect science, despite architecture plans and various skill sets available in modern times.

Ira emphasizes the importance of planning.

If you’re overspending because of a lack of planning upfront, at the end of the day that’s taking away your ROI.

Ira’s insider secret: Have something meaningful within the office culture, stand for something in terms of what you are going after, understand why what you’re doing matters.

Episode Timeline:

[02:56] Mike introduces today’s guest, ‘Ira Singer’, a contractor to discuss construction transformation and low disruption high ROI projects in these times.

[04:21] In one word, can you describe your personal and business focus?

[04:57] What do you mean by a Relationship Builder?

[07:04] Ira shares his backstory and the paths leading up to where he is today.

[12:15] What’s your passion for Real Estate?

[15:00] How do prospective owners size up renovations before closing a deal?

[18:30] Ira explains the process of working on a construction project, putting the ideas of the owner and the company together to achieve the desired outcome for the property.

[24:39] What’s your secret to doing a renovation that’s going to be low disruption but give the biggest ROI?

[28:12] What’s your rationale process for making high stakes decisions?

[30:21] Discussing lessons learned so far.

[34:34] From your perspective and your industry, looking into the multi-family industry, give a couple of insider secrets that people need to pay attention to.

[37:08] What advice would you give a new investor today?

[42:11] The best book you’ve read recently?

Ditch the Pitch by Steve Yastrow

The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack

[43:50] What is the most memorable moment you have had in the last 6 months?

[44:59] How to contact Ira




39 Ira Singer

Mike: Hey everybody. It’s Mike with insider secrets, another episode on Tuesday afternoon. And today I am joined by my friend and contractor IRA singer from mosaic construction. Hey, IRA real quick could you tell people what we’re going to talk about today?

[00:00:18]Ira: We’re certainly going to talk about my passions, which is construction transformation, and what’s involved in setting up a project for success.

[00:00:25]Certainly we want to touch on low disruption, high ROI projects that are good to do in this time in the multifamily industry, it’s always my pleasure to talk about insider secrets and what we can do to help inform your audience about ways to select the right contractor. Make sure that they’ve got the important things in mind when we’re talking about investing, as well as what are some of the market opportunities that exist in the suburban markets?

[00:00:59] Mike: Awesome. I am more excited now than I was before we started the call. So Hey, excellent. And everybody just tune in 12 o’clock on Tuesday and you’ll hear the entire episode.

[00:01:15] Kristen: Welcome to this week’s edition of insider secrets. The show that turns multifamily investing into reality. Each show we interview guests who are seasoned professionals, actively closing and managing real estate deals. Your host Mike Morawski has more than 30 years of multifamily, real estate investing and property management experience.

[00:01:37] Mike is the founder of my core intentions. And he’s been involved in over $285 million of transactions focuses on helping you create short term cashflow and long-term wealth. Here’s your host, Mike.

[00:01:53]Mike: Hey, and we’re back Tuesday afternoon. It’s Mike  your host of insider secrets and we’re brought to you by my core intentions. So like I ask every week, have you been thinking about your intentions? What are your plans? What are your goals? What are you working on and what really is important to you?

[00:02:11] You know at MCI we invest in our client’s future on an educational platform, teaching you how to create short-term cashflow and long-term wealth. Really empowering you to execute sound real estate and investing principles of property management principles, while living a balanced lifestyle. I know all too well that in real estate and the everything that goes along with real estate, how we can get so busy and so distracted that our lifestyle gets distorted. I really want to work with you and help you get more focused and live a better quality life. You know what? We’re going to develop on some strong foundations and practical principles. And I share a lot of those principles in my newly released book called exit plan, your complete guide to multifamily investing and why you need an exit plan before you buy.

[00:03:05] So pick up your copy today at my website. And if you want a free copy, give me a call and we’ll make sure that we get one of those in your hands as well. But listen, if you’re looking for some direction, my core intentions woud like to help you do that. So while you’re at the website, shoot us an email, let us know how we can be of help to you.

[00:03:23] I am really excited this afternoon for our call with my friend and contractor IRA singer from mosaic construction. IRA, would you say hi real quick.

[00:03:34] Ira: Hi everyone.

[00:03:36]Mike:  I think that we’re going to find today that this call is just filled with energy and excitement and knowledge for what we’re going to see come down the road here.

[00:03:45] But IRA is the principal with mosaic construction. As a relationship builder with more than 30 years of experience, I relieved new business development, estimating construction, production, project management, and a trade of partner and vendor relationships for mosaic. With offices in Milwaukee, North bergin Chicago, and a team with experience in more than 10 States. Mosaic construction is a design build and renovation firm focused on the needs of owners and property managers in the commercial multifamily and residential sector. That’s pretty impressive IRA, what mosaic does and your background and how you bring support. And really, I look at what you guys do as support to the multifamily investor.

[00:04:39] In what they’re trying to accomplish in a value add project and things like that. So we’re going to talk a lot about that today, and I’m really glad that you’re here. I know we’ve been talking about getting you on for a little bit and we’ve finally been able to put it together.  Why don’t we do this though?

[00:04:53] Here’s what I always ask everybody is in one word. Can you please describe to me your personal and business focus?

[00:05:03]Ira: Diversification, I guess if it’s one word that would be a good word to talk about mosaic construction.

[00:05:09] Mike: Great. Great. So I think we have a term that we’re using here this morning that maybe a lot of people don’t correlate with the construction industry a lot and that’s relationship. So can you explain what you mean by a relationship builder?

[00:05:26]Ira: Relationships are, the hallmark of my life from childhood through today. I’ve been very fortunate to always share a strong mix of professional, personal relationships that have been key to my growth , to my business expansion. And I think it starts with being an honest, transparent, good person and foundationally when I was young that’s how I was taught.

[00:05:55] That’s what was exampled by my parents. And it was really the foundation for me to take those core behaviors and personality traits. And leverage them into building relationships. Because people do business and are in relations with people that they know that they like, that they trust. And so that’s my focus.

[00:06:18] That’s one of our core actions at our company. We have six mosaic actions, build relationships is one of the actions.

[00:06:26] Mike: Very cool. That’s great. I know in sales, I coach a lot of people and one of the things people say is how come I can’t get more production? Why can’t I get this done? And I always go back to relationship because I don’t think anything happens unless we have some kind of a relationship with people.

[00:06:45] And, I remember years ago, reading a book called how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. Probably one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, right?

[00:06:53] Ira: Yeah.

[00:06:54] Mike: He talks in that book about building relationship. He actually tells a story where he sits down on a park bench next to somebody and asks them a couple of questions. And for 40 minutes, this person just talks about themselves. And at the end of the story, he talks about what a great conversation it was because that person was able to tell all about themselves, so it was pretty cool. But IRA tell us your backstory, how’d you get involved in the industry and what brought you to this point?

[00:07:28] Ira: There are such a confluence of a series of events for how things started in 1989 as to what they look like today in 2020. So in 89, when I got into the window siding, exterior improvement business that was as a salesman for a Chicago based company. And shortly in I left to start my own outfit and the residential exterior work grew into some modest remodeling and on the inside, but more fortunately it grew into multifamily.

[00:07:58] And so window replacement and roofing and siding and gutters from a multifamily project opportunity was my first entry point into multifamily a long time ago. And as we developed our trade teams and our knowledge, we obviously expanded into all areas of multi-family renovation work from the interior to the exterior, to the amount of these spaces.

[00:08:22] And today after I started my first company, I became partners with my current two partners. So 16 years ago, mosaic construction was formed. And we operate two other brands, a luxury brand called design construction concepts, a cannabis brand called cannabis facility construction. We are a design build firm, preferably coming in early and helping with a design engineering, architecture, product selection, and then budgeting upfront to set the project up for success.

[00:08:57]We’re set up with hundreds of different trade partner relationships as we project manage professionally and construction manage, but we are not self-performing any of the work that happens in our projects. We’re working in over in 10 States. In Wisconsin and Illinois and multifamily and commercial.

[00:09:14] And in the other eight States in cannabis we’re a highly philanthropic and charity based company. We have a aggressive budget. We serve on boards. We commit to over 40 different charities on an annual basis. And then personally, I’m fortunate to be married to my wife of 30 years. We met shortly after I graduated high school. We have three kids and I live in pleasant, Prairie, Wisconsin.

[00:09:41] Mike: Nice. Great segue.  So here’s what I want to ask you a little bit about the philanthropic piece. What give me one example of something that’s really close and dear to your heart.

[00:09:55] Ira: So I am on the executive board of the center for enriched living. This is a  (501) C3 nonprofit in Riverwoods, Illinois. The community that we serve in all of our work as strategists and board members and fundraisers is to support the intellectual and developmental disabilities community adults mostly and provide dynamic program. Dynamic programming, employment opportunities, all the things that we take for granted because, it’s given to us easily because of where we are.

[00:10:28]People with intellectual and or developmental disabilities have been ostracized and have a high, lonely factor. And so this place is magical. It puts on great programming brings them together, even in a COVID world, virtually for their programming and that they have some outstanding events. And it’s my my sixth year serving on the board there.

[00:10:49] Mike: Wow. That’s neat. You know what? It’s funny that we even get segue here, but I did a social media post this morning about gratitude, it’s Thanksgiving week, we’re recording this and it’s I think a lot of times people think about gratitude just at Thanksgiving time, rather than thinking about it every day and how we should be grateful for stuff. And that’s interesting, what you said is we take so much for granted, right? We just assume that everybody’s the same way. And there’s others that have those disabilities and others that are in situations that they need help. And I think that, my hat goes off to, I think that’s great that you spending your time doing that.

[00:11:27]Ira: And on our website, Mike are the list of the charities that our company supports giving Tuesday is coming up, the first Tuesday in December as an act of goodness and kindness of my time on your show, inspire somebody to support an organization that we support that would be terrific.

[00:11:46] Mike: Wow. Awesome. That’s nice. And let’s revisit that at the end again. Okay. Please do that again.  Hey, listen, I know you’ve got a lot of knowledge, a lot of years in the experience. Jeez, since 1989, you probably have learned a couple of things. You may have forgotten more than you have remembered, right?

[00:12:02] So I know that’s a lot in a lot of things that I’m involved with, but what’s your passion for real estate though? In the midst of all this, what’s your passion for real estate?

[00:12:13] Ira: So from the construction side of what we do professionally I’m all about the transformation. Transformation of simple window replacement, which doesn’t seem,  the most award-winning Oh my God transformation.

[00:12:29] And I got to tell you that old windows coming out and new windows coming in at a very basic level, transforms the space, but more importantly in design build and all the various projects that we work in, both in the multifamily and beyond when you’re transforming spaces, you are working on so many different things.

[00:12:49] Teamwork comes into play, you’re working with designers, you’re working with the owners involves planning and creativity, setting up a timeframe, transformation doesn’t happen without a game plan. It happens through the planning stages that a good contractor riding along with an investor owner operator to make it as seamless as possible. That kind of flows into our yes and mantra.

[00:13:16] We’re a very yes and focused company. We say no, if the project opportunity doesn’t align with what our core competencies are. But so much in the value add and then the renovation market are things that we have experienced on. So we know we get to work on all kinds of different projects that transform, because it’s something that we’re passionate about.

[00:13:34] Mike: Yeah. Very cool. Hey, listen, I’m an old carpenter, right? I was in the construction business long before I went in the real estate business. And I always liked being done and standing back and go, wow, we built this. Whether it’s a finished room addition or a new kitchen or, like you said, even just basic window replacement, you stand back and you go, wow. Look what we did and transform this. And I really like what you said, you can hear the passion about that. That’s in your voice so.

[00:14:02] Ira: Thank you. The reality is that a construction project is a journey. It starts long before. There’s a hammer swung for demolition or site protection put in place.

[00:14:13]There’s a lot of planning that goes in. And so by the time you go from the decision to buy what the budget is starting to spec out product, getting plans, drawn, submitting for permits, then you swing a hammer. Then you go through the physical transformation. By the time you get through that project journey. It really is transformative.

[00:14:32] Mike: Yeah, for sure. Hey, I want to ask a question around renovations and owners. Should owners who are buying multifamily really think about that whole renovation process before they buy the deal, how do they size up those renovations? Prior to going to contract or prior to closing, even, maybe we go to contract and then we have this plan, this camp X plan. How do you size that all up before you actually get to that point?

[00:15:09] Ira: So good investors people who are looking at the investment to make money or to have income they must have a game plan.

[00:15:20] Mosaic is interested in understanding and aligning to that game plan. So that spend strategy. Yes. We’ll bring expertise for what the building looks like and could transform to, or what some of the basic needs are from a systemic issue. As far as HPAC roofing, masonry finished, siting, whatever. But at the end of the day, that spend has to match up to the investment strategy and it is up for the investor to know is they’re looking at the disposition of money, the investment. Is it a value add play? Is it a three to five-year hold? Is it renovate 20% of the units prove the concept of the increased rent and then sell it off and let someone else finish it on the backside.

[00:16:08] So all of those different scenarios for investment into the multifamily is where the sooner the contractor’s in place, the sooner we can help with real pre budgeting. Having eyes on the asset and not just in a deck, when offering memorandum of a bunch of photos and the ROIs that they’re projecting and the net income that it spins off of.

[00:16:32] That’s great. And then eyes on the property. What do the floors really look like? Are the doors shutting? Are the windows crappy? Are there masonry issues that photos don’t show? So the roofs look old and tired. If that is not seen in real time, then they could walk into a money pit type of situation where they didn’t do any good due diligence.

[00:16:55] I’m putting together a spend proforma of what the building needs versus what their budget is. Because if they run out of money, but there’s still a bunch of problems and they can’t ever get it over the finish line to convert it from C to B because they didn’t have the spend. That was poor planning at the due diligence period. And so we are in favor of getting in the discussions with the decision to buy early enough to help level set some budgeting around needs versus whats.

[00:17:29] Mike: Hey, you probably are old enough to remember this and I don’t know if you do or not, but remember an old movie called color of money.

[00:17:36] Ira: Oh yeah.

[00:17:37] Mike: During the construction, it was always two weeks, two weeks, two weeks. I never could understand that how people could just push everything out two weeks like that. The answer was always two weeks, but we always know that when we think two weeks, it always, there’s always something else that becomes involved.

[00:17:55] Hey, here’s what I want to know. So if I’m doing a renovation and I think that a lot of my listeners may appreciate this, but if I’m doing a renovation, do I want you to come in and help me with that renovation based on what I think it needs to have what you think it needs to have what I wanted to have, how do I bring you in and say, look, this is what I’m trying to accomplish.

[00:18:21]I can go buy an apartment complex and say, Hey, I’m going to put a million dollars cap X into this, and I’m going to go in and I’m going to put $5,000 per unit in, and we’re going to split that between interior and exterior work. At what point and I know that when I do that, I’m going to come in and I’m going to do some doors and some countertops and maybe a bathroom and not every unit is going to be the same, but they’re going to be different. How do we walk through that whole process and get that all penciled out to where we know exactly what we’re doing.

[00:18:57] Ira: Oh, so you have the luxury of getting in there as much as you want, then you bring your contractor and you pay them a small fee for all the expertise that they’re providing for the security blanket of proving your spend concept and having their eyes see things that maybe you’re not even paying attention to that has a spend that puts money to a different pocket in the asset than they were planning on spending. And with all due respect to the owner operator, good construction companies are resourceful. And so having the ability to look at finishes to allow them, if they’re planning $5,000 spend in a unit that doesn’t go very far, if it’s kitchens and bathrooms, it won’t even take care of kitchens and bathrooms from, counters, cabinets, appliances, a paint job, and flooring, as well as a vanity, a toilet, a faucet, a med cab, and some towel rings and a paint job. $5,000 won’t cover that scope and that’s minimally what you would be doing in a unit to refresh it. And so being able to come in and have realistic conversations about budget ranges seeing the conditions to know that 30% of the units were made over six years ago.

[00:20:17] And we’re not going to put those, we’re not going to tackle those. There’s all kinds of things that, my expectation is that the owner operator knows how to make money in multifamily. And their expectations should be that their contractor understands the ROI concept where money’s are best parked, but what also needs to be addressed on the building to safeguard the investment.

[00:20:40] Mike: So what’s the best way for me to handle this. So I’m a syndicator. And I’m going to syndicate this. Let’s just call it a hundred unit deal. And I know that I need to put some cap X into this, but I need to write an offering memorandum here and I need to get this thing under contract. And the market is so fast right now.

[00:20:58] And so hot right now. That I have to put an offer in. I have to go hard on my earnest money. I have to go hard on contract and in the midst of all this I need to, and we’re talking days, we’re not talking weeks anymore.

[00:21:13] Ira: Yes, right.

[00:21:14] Mike: We’re talking days right now, especially the market sensitive. If we look at some of the top markets today, How do I know that when I go to do an offering memorandum to roll this out to my investor community and say, Hey, look, here’s what we have going on.

[00:21:30] And here’s what we’re going to do on camp X. How do you know, how do I judge that? You’re saying five thousands now and enough. And it very well may not be. It was just using that as a placeholder.

[00:21:42] Ira: Yeah, ofcourse.

[00:21:43] Mike: So how do we judge that today? How do I, as a syndicator go out there and say, okay I should figure this. And if I come in less, I’m good.

[00:21:53] Ira: So all the things that you’re describing in terms of current market conditions, make it challenging to do that over the last month, I have had two different phone calls with someone who bought a 500 unit in Southern Illinois sight unseen, with a giant report that has foundational issues and exterior wall finishes and all the units he’s got 51, literally shut down by the city that this asset exists.

[00:22:21] That he, that are not rentable. And so as soon as he buys it and closes, he wants to spend money and he’s come up with his spend based on experience. That doesn’t necessarily translate if you haven’t seen the reality of the foundations or the exterior walls or the topography of the entire community, because the market’s tight people are saying yes, so they can get something under contract that may or may not prove where what he’s putting in his hole for spend actually matches up to everything that has to happen there. I had another call last week on a 700 plus unit in Pennsylvania.

[00:23:00] Around someone who’s got, 19 different categories of areas within the asset that need improvement and need attention. And they have a construction component knowledge to their operation. And so they’re looking for somebody to match that number. Until I go see it. And they, contract with us when we vet through all the various spend categories over the next three years that this company wants to deploy money in, at that point, it can be proven.

[00:23:31]Sometimes the hoped for a prelim budget work, doesn’t align to the market conditions where you have to go hard and go hard, fast.

[00:23:40] Mike: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, it’s an interesting environment today, and let me ask you this. If I’m trying, what’s your secret to doing a renovation, that’s going to be low disruption, but give me my biggest return on my investment.

[00:23:56] Ira: So happy residents is your biggest return on the investment, right? Because happy residents will pay their rents. And whether it’s $10 more than it was last year or $40 more because there was an improvement. Happy residents are where you shine and things that matter today that are the least disruptive is wifi.

[00:24:19] Wifi matters more now. Because you are at home, you are working from home, potentially. You are entertaining yourself at home. Most likely as far as Netflix or Amazon shopping, you have to be able to get on wifi. And that is a fairly low disruptive investment for the infrastructure of today’s cOVID. World, but also,  we’re just relying on our devices more and more.

[00:24:47] And so I think that is an easy one. As far as depending on what you’re buying, how old it is, how you get the wireless access points and very strong signal into your community to do whatever you can to make sure that’s the case. Cause regardless of whether it’s workforce housing or class, a housing or student housing, everybody is online. So I think that’s one and that’s a simple one. Makes sense?

[00:25:14] Mike: Yeah, no, I definitely understand that. That’s for sure.

[00:25:17]Ira: Low disruption stay out of the units, unfortunately, for the bang, for the reality of a rent spike, kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, paint jobs, lighting in the units really gives you your best option for an upgrade in the monthly collection.

[00:25:34] But it’s disruptive that way. And so I would say you need to look at other things that do have sense. Common areas for lighting for floor finishes, for some design element, depending on the class of the assets or amenity spaces that allow for community experience. Not so much fitness centers, but outdoor spaces, fire pits, pergolas, patio, furniture. Of course, if there’s a ability to carve out a small business center where two people can be in there socially distant, but there’s, people are working from home. They are spending more time at home. Those types of common area improvements don’t necessarily disrupt the residents as much.

[00:26:17] And of course, everything on the outside matters. The building envelope as an asset protection piece from roofing to gutters, to siding or masonry to foundations and windows and doors. Those things matter for the overall long-term health of the building. And they look great too, when they’re new. And so I would not ignore the outside make-over as simple as signage, landscaping, making sure your concrete isn’t all jacked up where you have tripping points, creating, an outside color profile that is nice if you’re in a cold climate, good windows and doors and roofs matter big time. Those are some of the low impact, high ROI improvements you can do.

[00:27:03] Mike: That’s interesting. Yeah. I see how that can work. I have to imagine in your business that a lot of times there’s big choices and big decisions that you need to make when you’re faced with, and this might come more down to a personal question, but when you’re faced with high state decisions how do you make those decisions? What’s your process, your rationale process for making those?

[00:27:27] Ira: That is a a secret sauce recipe that for me has kept me safe. Because being a business owner, being responsible for my team looking at growth and saying yes to opportunities, there are stakes. That have to be navigated through.

[00:27:43] And so collaboration is one for sure. A piece of my approach to ask questions. Don’t be afraid. There are, you heard in third grade, there are no stupid questions. So ask questions, collaborate, do research. It is easier than ever to ask a question out in the universe and all of a sudden your inbox or your browser is filled with a bunch of links that gets you information. If you’re probably not doing something that’s never been done before. And so you got to do the research to find the strategy so you can deploy whatever decision you’re about to make. I think most importantly on all that planning is how you measure it.

[00:28:25] If you have a high stakes decision, then you’re looking to get something on the backend and measuring it and whatever metric you need to. However it makes you feel, or if there’s tangible, measurable points, you should be measuring that. And of course the easiest answer to how you make a high stakes decision is you surround yourself with people in team and advisors that are stakeholders and that are smarter than I am.

[00:28:50] Mike: I Like that. That’s one thing I’ve always learned is if I can have smarter people in my life, people that are smarter than me, it makes my job a little bit easier. Hey, after all the years you’ve been in the business, I’m sure that you have some jobs that you really like a lot, some jobs that weren’t so good for you. What are some of those lessons that you’ve learned along the way based because of that?

[00:29:15] Ira: So construction is an imperfect science, despite a nice set of architecture plans, despite outstanding trade partners who are skilled at their various category of plumbing, electric, et cetera. And yet you know, some of the basic building blocks of success are in simple phrases.

[00:29:32]Measure twice, cut once. That is not just in the field, but that is in anything that is a planned execution of a construction component, which means we’re living in the details. I’ve learned more lessons by diving into the details. I’ve not had as many expensive results because we have been good planners with a bunch of tools and not like the hammer saw tool, but more like management tools, processes, memorandums around how to launch and execute and close out project. We completed 108 units of affordable housing property in Indiana several years ago where the residents because of the amount of construction were being moved out by the owner into hotels. That resulted in their units being empty. So the renovation could happen as quickly and as many of them as a time that the budget for move-outs could afford.

[00:30:34] And that taught me the importance of planning. The entire process from how many storage containers and where were they going to presetting the municipal inspections so the people from the township could come and see the work, and not have to wait and wait. We preset all of those things.

[00:30:57] We made sure that we had inventory on site. So that’s a good success story around living in the details. The way that projects get off rail is experienced telling me it’s a poor set of plans. It’s designed by somebody to an owner that’s not really sure now it’s going out for bid. I’ve seen the project.

[00:31:19] I got a bunch of questions. There’s not a specific request for information process. So I can’t level set the answer because there isn’t a clear one being given, or there’s a lack of specification on finish. Those are things where I have learned. Those are projects that have a high probability of change order and delays in time.

[00:31:43] Because again, that upfront planning of a good set of plans and knowing your specifications and thinking about the various build components. Cause we’re, renovators. So one thing, if we’re coming out of the ground, but that’s not where we exist as a company, we come in and renovate existing. So you’re tying into existing systems.

[00:32:02]Do the plans show those determination and connection points clearly? So there’s not a bunch of open-ended things. So that is some of the lessons I’ve learned in all kinds of projects that we’ve completed, that the details matter. And I gotta ask good questions to make sure that your trades aren’t coming back at you with the fear of change orders which ultimately take away from the quality investment. If you’re overspending, because there’s a lack of planning upfront at the end of the day, that’s taken away your ROI.

[00:32:39] Mike: Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for that, you know it, and I think that one of the things too, and I really think you, and I could probably talk about this for hours.

[00:32:48] One of my advantages I believe is that I had so many years in the construction business before I went into the real estate multifamily business. So I’ve been able to help a lot of clients along the way with that. And so many of the things that you’re talking about are so spot on.

[00:33:03] Ira: Thank you.

[00:33:03]Mike:  It really right in the pocket. This show is called insider secrets. So from your perspective and your industry looking into the multi-family industry, give a couple of insider secrets that you would say you’ve maybe seen, or people need to pay attention to.

[00:33:23] Ira: I’m going to speak from a level of business owner through the years. And there’s a lot of things that we’ve talked about already specific to a successful project, hiring the right contract or doing pre budgeting. Those are all, they’re not secrets, but they’re all definitely secret sauce, recipes that will keep you on track to hit your numbers.

[00:33:46] I’m thinking more from a I run a team of project managers and my team is really the producer director of construction. And we don’t wear a tool belt, but everyone on my team is charged with making sure that the project from sale to punt from selling it to the punch list at the end of it is a great experience.

[00:34:08] And so I have found that an inside secret to keep our team aligned is to have something meaningful within the office culture. Stand for something in terms of what you are going after. What is the business strategy? Outline a roadmap for what success looks like in your company and speak to that excellence and why it matters.

[00:34:32] I’m talking about like setting up a cultural flag pole in your organization, if it’s you and two other people. Understand why what you’re doing matters. We define that by the mosaic actions, which is more modern day nomenclature for what would be called mission vision.

[00:34:51] And my team speaks to the mosaic actions. We said early on the build relationships piece one of our actions is closing the loop. Anticipating the needs is another one. In construction, if we are focused as a secret that we’re behaving on that we’re intentional on because we closed the loop.

[00:35:11] Our projects are more successful. That’s a secret sauce recipe that matters inside the walls of my office that my team speaks about. Happy to you know, talk about the mosaic actions, but you really need to set a course and get buy in from your team. So you’re all rowing in the same direction.

[00:35:28] Mike: Yeah, very cool. Very good. Hey so I’m sure that you’ve seen a lot of new investors come in the marketplace. I’m sure that you’ve seen a lot of seasoned investors. What advice would you give a new investor today? Coming in the market?

[00:35:44] Ira: I would imagine that the majority of people who are coming into the multifamily or the real estate market as an investor are likely not building something out of the ground.

[00:35:55] They are likely buying something and hoping that their due diligence and what the building needs and what they think they can get on the rent side aligns very close to the numbers they’re presetting. And so the value add strategy is clearly still robust in the multifamily industry, regardless of asset class you are spending money into an existing asset to reposition it, to upgrade it, to make it look nicer, to take it from C to B.

[00:36:25]And with that, I see the suburban markets being a place where those opportunities exist. Not only in small, like six, 10, 12 flat buildings that have, they’re old buildings, unless they’ve already been previously renovated. I’m building six to 10 flats for the most part any more. And so if you happen to be able to get one in a suburb that is getting a migration of people leaving urban centers and heading out to the suburbs and you can find an asset that needs some love.

[00:37:00] But is commensurate to a great community is in an area where there is traction in the single family market. Not that they are tied as indicators, but there’s a demand with a, not with a supply, that’s not meeting it. And so I think that part of the opportunity is not only in small, more manageable financial investments to buy, a smaller, existing asset in a decent suburban market.

[00:37:27] But also you may look at buying single family homes, collecting six of them. And having rents coming in, renovating those modestly. Again, family life in the suburbs is happier with the backyard. And if you can buy a small home in a stable neighborhood and put some money into it to make it as good as it can be for the rent that you’re asking. I think that is also a market opportunity in as people leave urban centers. Chicago is experiencing quite a migration into the North suburbs where I raised my family as a result of COVID people working from home, wanting to get their kids into a better school.

[00:38:07] Mike: Yeah. Yeah, a lot of things, a lot of things shifting and changing right now, what’s interesting. And I said, this is, we can talk for hours and we’re really starting to get close to the end here or end of our time, I should say. But I want to just shift things up a little bit and get a little bit lighter.

[00:38:22] Cause and ask you a couple of questions. You’re from just over the border in Wisconsin. So if anybody knows the market here, you’re probably about 40 minutes from downtown Chicago, right?

[00:38:36] Ira: Yeah. I raised my family in Deerfield which is in the North shore. I was born and raised in Glen view. My offices are in Northbrook and recently as we became empty nesters, we just moved over the state line. But we both my wife and I both commute to North Brook to go to work every day.

[00:38:52] Mike: So tell us about your most favorite tourist attraction from

[00:38:58] Ira: the area? I would not say that the, the I am not an urban person. I would much more be in nature and outdoors. And although, biking, at the Lake front is great. If we’re talking about things that would capture my attention, it would be out into state parks that are in the area, outdoor spaces, any type of hiking certainly being on a small Lake, on a boat out on the water.

[00:39:27]To me that’s the best way to spend my time. I’m not running necessarily into tourist attraction.

[00:39:34] Mike: Nice. Good for you. How about favorite restaurant?

[00:39:39] Ira: Oh boy. I’m like that’s a, that’s also not my game. I’m a cook at home pretty routine to either, a little secret behind the curtain is I lost a substantial amount of weight three years ago and where I was eating anything and everything.

[00:39:54]In order for me to hold on to that. My food and my eating has also transformed. And so restaurants don’t necessarily play into that lifestyle for me.

[00:40:05] Mike: Nice though,  it’s better to live a healthier lifestyle. Hey, best book you’ve read recently.

[00:40:12] Ira: So there are a couple that I have one is called ditch the pitch. It is a local guy that has served as a strategist in our company named Steve Yastrow, Y A S T R O W. Ditch the pitch is just about, not showing up in sales. And talking about yourself, obviously listening more than what you’re, all the hallmarks of relationship building and good listening.

[00:40:40]So I do like that one. We have recently completed in our business, the leadership team called the great game of business by Jack stack. This is a way to create budgets and the accountability to the budgets for my team members in a way for them to participate in a shared bonus based on monies held onto, gross profits realized for what the budget was either on a project basis or my office supplied budget or my, whatever budgets we have in our company, towing the line on that. And so the great game of business, which focuses on the manufacturing sector and how widgets costs X cents, and they could be 2 cents less than the team making the widgets would share in that savings. That was the inspiration.

[00:41:30] And that was open book transparency, which aligns to a lot of what we stand for. And so we’re doing that with our team.

[00:41:38] Mike: And then most memorable moment that you’ve had in the last six months?

[00:41:46]Ira: So positively,

[00:41:48] Mike: Thank you.

[00:41:49] Ira: Which certainly is not, you know what everybody I think would go to because the highlights are not necessarily easy as it’s been contentious to be a citizen of our country, but over the last six months, my outdoor space has transformed. And that has brought me tremendous joy as we live on a small Lake and we put a beach in which takes us right out on the water.

[00:42:14] And we have a hot tub for our outdoor enjoyment as well. And based on our location, we are investing in solar panels as we are also eco-conscious citizens of the world. So those things have been awesome. I’m really excited about what that means for my time in my home in Pleasant Prairie. And that would absolutely qualify as one of the good things that have happened during the pandemic. So I appreciate you asking.

[00:42:41] Mike: Yeah, for sure. Listen, it has been a pleasure. Could you please tell people how they get ahold of you if they want to pick your brain a little bit more or use your service?

[00:42:52] Ira: Directly the best email is That’s M O S A I C and the word construction

[00:43:05] Our website is mosaic There’s a contact us page. We’re active on social media with our three brands. We’ve got a lot of good content and photos of pretty stuff and projects.  We’d love to hear from any of your listeners, a phone call to have a question answered is free.

[00:43:22] I’m happy to listen and see if there’s a way that mosaic could be of service. And so if there’s anyone who would like to contact me really email is the best, then we’ll go from there.

[00:43:34] Mike: Perfect and listen, everybody. IRAs contact information will be in the show notes as well as on our website.

[00:43:42] So IRA want to thank you again for being here today. A wealth of knowledge that’s for sure. And like I’ve said it a couple of times, but I’ll just say it again. You and I could probably talk on this subject for hours. But I know that you come highly recommended and a lot of your work is really stood the test of time.

[00:43:59] And that’s good. So I would invite anybody to call you and pick your brain a little bit and see how they could use you. Remember everybody we’re here every Tuesday at noon, 12 o’clock insider secrets. So please go like us on social or follow us on social media and like us on YouTube and subscribe to that.

[00:44:18] And we will look forward to seeing everybody next week on Tuesday. Have a great week, everybody. IRA. Thanks again.

[00:44:25] Ira: Thank you, Mike. Really enjoyed it. I hope your listeners gained some knowledge and thank you again.

[00:44:33] Kristen: Thank you, Mike, and thank you for joining us for another great episode of insider secrets as always insider secrets is brought to you by my core intentions. Join us on social media and visit my core where you can get expert coaching on all things, multifamily investing in property management.

[00:44:52] We’re looking forward to having you back again next week for more insider secrets.