By Hannah Ash (To read the original story in it's entirety in the Spring 2016 issue of REI Voice, please click here. )
By now, I’ve interviewed numerous real estate pros. There’s something about Memphis Invest's Chris Clothier that is disarmingly genuine. I catch up with him between meetings on a Thursday in early Spring - despite his hectic schedule and calls that continue coming in, he gives me his undivided attention. I lead with a strong question that cuts to the chase, “what’s the one big thing about your company that I should know?” Without missing a beat, he responds, “You can have anything you want in life, if you help other people get what they want.”
Over the past twelve years, Memphis Invest has built an impressive track record of getting people what they want in life. Their investors average a substantial 8% on returns - a fact of which Clothier is clearly proud. Memphis Invest, I learn, is more than just a turnkey provider - it’s a long-term investment management company. It’s the go-to for investors who want all the great returns of investment without the hassles that crop up. It’s where investors turn to when they want to make their money work harder without having to work harder themselves -- Chris and his ace team are the ones who field the property repairs, midnight tenant phone calls, find the right properties in the right markets, and secure the best vendors to handle necessary renovations. Not only do they handle all of this, it’s what Memphis Invest does best.
A family-owned company, Memphis Invest was founded by Clothier patriarch Kent Sr. The company has grown organically after planting it roots many decades ago. Kent started out in the supermarket industry, managing a billion-dollar supermarket operation by the young age of 32. Kent brought his expertise in the grocery industry with him to Memphis and began American Wholesale Grocers in 1987. By 1995, he built the enterprise into a $50-million venture, which he sold in the late 1990s. He went on to pursue his passion for real estate and ended up being asked to speak at real estate investing associations. Friends and fellow investors kept turning to Kent for advice, asking him for his assistance in finding and managing investments as successfully as he had been finding and managing his own.
One thing led to another, and Memphis Invest took shape, carrying with it a mission to give people what they want in life. Two of his sons, Chris and Brett, both successful in their own right, joined the Memphis Invest management team and the dream began in earnest. The company decided to expand into Texas, adding offices in Dallas and Houston. The markets they target today -- Memphis, Dallas and Houston -- are among the strongest in the country for growing investment dollars. Key factors that make these markets desirable, as Chris puts it, include “affordability, economic growth and temperate climates.” Chris points out that the temperate climates translate to less weather-related wear, tear and maintenance for their property owners - for example, no snow removal. “The markets we offer give our clients a high level of comfort,” Chris explains, and I can see why.
So, how does a would-be investor find themselves working with Memphis Invest? It’s a process. I’m surprised to hear that the Clothier is selective. He shares, “Not every investor is a good fit for Memphis Invest.” Who is a good fit, I ask? “Investors who want great returns and quality investments without the legwork,” Chris tells me.
Memphis Invest isn’t the cheapest option in the industry - nor do they aim to be. “With passive investments,” Chris explains, “cheaper is never better.” When you’re buying a cheap property, as with any decision to buy the less expensive option, you sacrifice something, somewhere. With cheaper investments, you may end up paying less upfront, but down the road, the price tag grows while the returns shrink. Whether it’s the need for ongoing repairs, a less-than-steady base of tenants and larger rates of vacancy, or a significant time investment - buying a “cheap” property can end up costing a lot more than it looks on paper.
Memphis Invest’s clients come to the Clothiers looking for quality investments. Looking to truly grow their portfolios, investors typically purchase multiple properties at a time. Though not required to be accredited, the Memphis Invest team invests time with each new investor to fully understand their needs and wants. “We haven’t ever sold a property,” Chris proudly tells me. “What?” I ask him to repeat himself.
He goes on, “It’s not about selling properties, it’s about matching our properties with our clients’ needs. If it works, great.” So, once a client comes to Memphis Invest, the team finds properties that match their needs. Absent are the aggressive sales pitches and empty-promise verbiage that gives the industry a bad name.
It’s a refreshing approach that’s served Memphis Invest, and its clients, well. Chris relates a story of a local competitor who came to them to find learn more about their practices. The competitor had copied the Memphis Invest marketing material almost word for word - and during their meeting with Memphis Invest, the competitor confessed, “I know you say you do all those things. We say we do, too. It’s what everyone in the industry says. But you guys actually do them.”
Their work, Chris says, speaks for itself. When investors see the properties, “they are blown away.” That’s what sets them apart - not being the cheapest game in town, or having the most aggressive sales pitch, or working with every investor that comes their way….it’s having the best product that gives the best returns year after year. The proof that the Memphis Invest way works is in the pudding.
“60% of our deals are made by repeat investors. They keep coming to us for our value and reliability,” Chris concludes. For a company that began because of a true demand for Kent Sr.’s investment guidance, it’s apparent that Memphis Invest will continue to grow, both in demand and in returns for their investors, for decades to come.