Global Investors Podcast
GI26: Over 8,500 Units; Achieving Financial Freedom Through Real Estate Syndications with Ryan McKenna
December 18, 2019
GI26: Over 8,500 Units; Achieving Financial Freedom Through Real Estate Syndications with Ryan McKenna

Ryan McKenna is a full-time real estate investor, syndicator, and founder of McKenna Capital, a private equity firm that provides passive investing opportunities in commercial real estate. Focusing on value-add multifamily, self-storage and manufactured home parks, McKenna Capital has helped investors allocate capital across 8,500 units with a combined asset value over $900,000,000.

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Announcer: Welcome to the Global Investors Podcast, a show that focuses on helping foreign investors enter the lucrative US real estate market. Host, Charles Carillo, combined decades of real estate investing experience with a professional background in international banking to interview experts in all areas of US real estate investing. Now here’s your host, Charles Carillo.

Charles: Welcome to another episode of the global investors podcast. I’m your host Charles Carrillo. Today we have Ryan McKenna. Ryan is a full time real estate investor, syndicator and founder of McKenna Capital, a private equity firm that provides passive investing opportunities in commercial real estate, focusing on value add, multifamily self storage and manufactured home parts. Mckenna Capital has helped investors allocate capital across 8,500 units with a combined asset value of over $900 million, which is very impressive. So thanks for being on the show today, Ryan.

Ryan: Thanks Charles. I’m very happy to be on.

Charles: Yeah, no, it’s awesome that you’re in so many different asset classes cause then it gives a whole a different view for different investors of where they want to, where they want to be invested. And the pros and cons of that. Can you give us a little background on yourself as well as your professional experience prior to starting McKenna capital?

Ryan: Sure. Well, I live in Glenview, Illinois now, just a suburb North of Chicago, have a beautiful wife, two daughters. I guess to start I’ll take you back to my college years cause that’s an important time of my life where I’d worked really hard at an early age to get a scholarship to play baseball at Arizona state, which was my dream school. And it was a path that you know, I thought I would continue after college. I always had dreams and aspirations of given a shot maybe of making it to the big leagues. And Arizona state was, was a great stepping stone for that, especially with the program there. But I encountered an illness about halfway through my sophomore year and it really derailed the rest of my baseball career and, and completely changed my life. And I share that because I think it’s important for others to know that, you know, you could have a plan and think everything’s going to go right, but when it doesn’t and life throws your curve ball, you got to kind of adjust to that. And so I, you know, at back in that point in my life, really need to fall back on, on something else. And that’s where education and business became a paramount to me. And it’s actually when I first started to learn and you know, my interest in real estate really started to kind of take off. But from a, you know, graduate from Arizona state, I went into the business world. I worked at a startup company before. I’ve you know, worked in a fam, our family business. I was in the insurance industry for a long time. All while my entrepreneurial roots, especially in real estate and my desire to invest in and build a business, always kind of been there. Started my first real estate investment back in 2006. And then in 2007, I started a business on the side. I’ve had a few side hustles if you can call them that over a period of my life. And that one business within five years I was able to scale it to over a million dollars in revenue by myself, just kind of working nights and weekends. And then I hired a management company to come in and it’s, it’s a very passive business today, but it was something that really got me thinking of, you know, just the passive nature of growing a business or investing. So I did all this prior to starting McKenna capital. And so I just think that you know, life has crazy way of taking you to many different places, but I wouldn’t have changed anything that I’ve gone through or experienced. I’m completely healthy now and happy and just in a good place with everything. So that’s a, that’s myself, my background and professional career.

Charles: How did you choose real estate as your vehicle?

Ryan: So when I was exposed to it in college actually when I w was sick, I had to do a medical red shirt. So I had a lot of time on my hands outside of practice. And I started to think about my future and what I wanted to do and where I was going to make my mark and what I was passionate about. And fortunately a teammate of mine, his father was an apartment syndicator and I got to know him. He was an outfielder and so we were always, you know, doing drills together, working together, but the, the, his father would be in town and I would just strike up conversations. And he was a very smart businessman and I really liked what he was doing and he kind of took me under his wing a little bit and shared more about what a syndication was and you know, how they were buying these large 200, 300 unit apartments. And I just got really curious, start asking a lot of questions and then, you know, I quickly learned how lucrative that business could be and how much fun it could be and all the flexibility he had. Raising his children where he could kind of dictate his own schedule and work on, you know, projects here and there and take time off of he needed. So there was a, you know, attractiveness to that that, that model, that business, that investment. And then when I looked into it further, at the level of returns that one could receive investing in it or syndicating the deal. It was just something that always was top of mind. And then in combination of that, I also stumbled across a rich dad, poor dad by Robert Kiyosaki. That was probably the most influential, you know, business personal finance book I’ve ever read or ever read. And that together, you know, with the timing of what I was going through in my life and having a mentor that was already in the business and then seeing in that book a blueprint for how to do this, how to invest passively. That’s really where I kind of put it all together and it’s something, you know, to this day I still look back on as a, you know, a very strong foundation for getting me into real estate, you know, and that type of vehicle being my preferred investment choice.

Charles: Yeah. That book is so important in getting someone out of the employee mindset, the mindset as he says into the business owner, the passive even out of the self employed person because everybody thinks, you know, that’s, that’s a huge part of that book is knowing that I’m, I’m self employed, I have a job. It’s not a business which passes. So when you started with real estate, was it straight passive investing? I know you said you had done it for three years or so and you’re able to pretty much take out your full time income through that, through that that income. But was it, did you start off passively or did you start off more active?

Ryan: No, I started off more active, so kind of like most maybe dip my toe into the single family rentals and just had known about apartments indications, but I just didn’t, I guess at the time had the capital to really start investing. So I think it’s easier to get started in single family rentals, which is what I did and it was a great way for me to learn, but it definitely was active. And you know, looking back on it, I’m thankful that I got into it when I did because part of this was taking action. I’d always talked about wanting to invest and this was a great experience for me to kind of start on a smaller scale and learn the things that I, I really wanted to learn about managing a property, managing tenants. So I got a good education, but I also quickly learned that this wasn’t a type of investment that would allow me to scale because it wasn’t passive. Took a lot of my time and I was already working full time and I didn’t want to have a kind of another full time project on top of that. So after a few of those, I just, I really realized that, you know, I needed to get back to what I wanted to ultimately invest in, which was multifamily syndication. And so it did take me some time to get there. I had another business that I was building along the way, so that’s where there was maybe a gap from 2006 to 2016 was really when I first started. I’m making a lot of my multifamily syndication investments passively. And then from there, that’s when it took off because I was able to deploy enough capital over that three year period to essentially allow me to walk away from my corporate job and then to pursue investing full time and also grow a syndication business.

Charles: Were those all large multifamily properties or were you in other asset classes?

Ryan: No, they were all large multifamily properties. The average size was probably between 200 and 300 units. And I had invested in 12 syndications with four different sponsors. As you know, before I decided to, you know, pursue this indication path because I really wanted to learn from others who had been successful and I wanted to diversify my investments, you know, cross multiple sponsors, you know, different markets and you know, so it was really, I was kind of test running, you know, maybe my own business or my own investments that I wanted to pursue and help others with. But I was doing it all along the way, you know, just learning and staying as close as I could to the, the operators. But it was a great time in my life where I was able to see something quickly grow. And the best part about these passive investments is once I did the diligence on the front end and then made the investment, it was completely hands off. And that was kind of liberating. When I compare it to what I had experienced prior, where I did receive a lot of those phone calls and had to make some of those decisions. Whereas nowadays it’s, you know, once I make the investment, I kind of sit back and watch the money roll in.

Charles: Yeah, that’s great. It’s a great way of passive investing before if you want to syndicate. It’s a great way of doing it and seeing exactly behind the scenes of how everything works, how much contact you have, how they work out, the numbers. I’ve passionately invested at several times before as well. And it’s definitely the easiest way ever to invest into real estate. There’s no other way around it because even having smaller multifamily, I mean, you’re still in between, you know, if even if you’re not managing them yourself, you’re still in between there and you’re still, when there’s large cap ex stuff that has to be done, arch improvements, you’re, you’re being called. You know what I mean? Yeah. And so it’s great, but so you’ve, you’ve coast indicated a 28 deals worth nearly a billion dollars. And what strategies do you utilize for choosing opportunities when you bring them to your investors?

Ryan: So before I, we’ll look at a deal. I’m out there seeking the relationship with the operator and getting to know them personally because I really believe that you’ve got to get that down before you look at numbers in a deal. Because a lot of deals, I see the numbers all look the same and at the end of the day you want to know who’s behind those numbers and the team that’s going to execute on the business plan. Because I think in most of these deals, especially now that the biggest risk is execution and I want to see, you know, a strong team. I want to know that team, you know, personally. So maybe I will invest in a deal prior to me bringing it to our investors. Or just through my due diligence. I’m getting to know them, understanding their communication style, how transparent they are. I typically will talk to other investors that have invested with them previously to just see what their experience was like. Cause it is a pretty small connected world out there and your reputation is everything. So I really try to get the character integrity piece down the trustworthiness before I will and kind of scrutinize and look at a deal. So a lot of this is, you know, cultivated over several years of, of just getting to know someone and how they operate and then also putting your money out there too to see how it actually will play out. And so I did some that in conjunction with you know, syndicating deals with them. So yeah, a lot of personal investments, lot of you know, trust. But you can do your own due diligence in many different ways. There’s a lot you can find on the internet nowadays. But, but some of it is, you know, you get to kind of know as you’re in this business, you get to kind of understand and see who’s, who’s putting good deals together, who’s got a good track record, who’s got good experience, what asset class they’re focused in, on, what markets they’re in. And so you know, this is what I do full time now. So all day long I, I spend my day talking with investors and our operating partners. So I feel like I’d much rather go deeper in the relationship, you know, with the operator instead of, you know, just trying to kind of look at all these different deals. So we try to get that part. I’m right on the front end cause we know it’s going to be a longterm partnership. It’s going to be three, five, seven years. And so we want to do multiple deals together over that period of time and get our investors comfortable with that particular operator. So before we put a deal together, there’s a lot that’s done on a kind of behind the scenes. You know, with me and those partners,

Charles: It’s also good too because when you speak to your investors and you say, well, I’ve invested with them before, this is how it works. This is what you’ll get every 30 days, every 90 days we do a webinar here or you know, a call here and then there’s not, you’re not kind of like flying by the seat of your pants on the first investment with them. You have a track record, you know exactly what happens. And of course you’ve made that relationship. So those are all great things when you’re bringing to investors that probably don’t even know who the, who, this other who the, you know, the other coast indicator is that you’re working with. So when you look for a deal prior, it’s working with the operator what are some red flags you’ve seen maybe with other operators or other deals or something that, that it’s, you know, you kind of, if something goes off and you say, well, this isn’t, you know, this isn’t how we do it or this isn’t something that I want to bring to my investors. Is there anything like that maybe you’ve seen an underwriting before or during conversation or track record?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say definitely some red flags are you know, the experience of the, the operating team. I mean, if they’re a fairly new team, I would definitely want to see maybe one of the partners who has had a history that maybe goes beyond the, you know, the last crash we had just so that there’s someone there that can kind of look at this and really not kinda come into it with you know, with the best case you know assumptions out there. We want to see very conservative underwriting. And a lot of that is you know, it takes experience to know when you put a deal together, there’s going to be, there’s different levers that you can pull and you always want to have room built in because not everything’s going to go as planned. And when it doesn’t, you want to be able to you know, react to it in a way or have planned for something to maybe not go as planned. And so sometimes we look at like you know, on an exit we want to see, you know, at least 50 basis points on the cap. The cap rates of when we buy it to when we actually just to give some space there. And if cap rates remain the same that then great, the returns will be even higher. But we want to definitely see someone kind of going in and spreading that out. Same thing with you know, rent growth. You know, if we’re in a market where it’s maybe five, 6% is the projection, we’d like to see someone maybe go in at 4%, or at least, you know, be realistic that, you know, if we get the five or 6% that that’s great, but we’re not going to count on it because if you’re going in, you know, best case scenario and one or two things go wrong, that’s going to mess up the numbers, it’s going to mess up the returns and then you know, it’s a whole year kind of digging out of. So we definitely want and look at experienced operators for a lot of those reasons because I think when you go through a deal for the first time, you know, you’re just assuming, Oh, nothing will go wrong and that we know is not the case. So we like you know, we like operators that have had, you know, experience a track record and have done this over and over again because you learn a lot from previous deals. Let’s see if there’s anything else. You know, just underestimating the expenses. Sometimes we see someone just, you know, the assumptions just are off and it’s not realistic to what we see on other deals. So you gotta look at the, you know, the projections and then the assumption behind those projections and how do they get there and are they conservative or not. And so yeah, today we’re looking at even being more conservative. So you know, cash on cash returns good debt in place. And then also having flexible exit strategies too. Because sometimes, you know, we might plan to hold a deal for five years, but if it makes sense to get out early, we will. Or if we’re in a situation where no, we want to hold on to the acid for a longer period, maybe we know we’ve locked in some longterm debt right now versus doing a bridge loan, but other times original and makes a lot of sense because there could be prepayment, prepayment penalties that if you’re looking to unload the property in a few years, you to factor all that. And so we like to have multiple exit strategies and not be cornered in because I think another red flag will, you know, if someone is over levered in a deal you know, those are opportunities we hope to maybe be buying in a few years if someone is in a situation where they’ve got to kind of sell at a discount because they didn’t, you know, I think through a flexible, you know, exit strategy. So there’s, there’s many out there. You know, you could do all the diligence in the world ahead of time on someone or a team and at the end of the day, you know, that person could still wake up tomorrow and decide they want to be Bernie Madoff. And it’s just that risk that’s out there. I mean, it’s very unlikely, but again, that’s, we try to everything we can. There’s obviously an element of risk, but you want to, you want to mitigate it as much as you can. So look into all the different red flags and kind of modeling out some of these scenarios and stress testing these deals. Is is always something that I feel is prudent.

Charles: Yeah. The conservative underwriting is a, is a main, very important item. And the other thing too is in 08 & 09, we saw perfectly what happens when you don’t, when you have one exit strategy and if that’s refinancing or selling it and the market has constructed, I mean, and now you can’t refinance it and if you’re having a balloon payment, if you have short term debt. So definitely at this point in time having a longterm debt that that group the good debt service is definitely a benefit and kind of a requirement and a safe way to kind of take down deals. I feel at this point where we are in the market cycle. Getting in with your investors now, I was, we were speaking previously and you were saying about 95% of your investors reinvest with you and you focus on three different asset classes. Can you kind of explain the different asset classes and why you like them?

Ryan: Sure. Yeah. Our main core focus is on value add multifamily. We also have done self storage deals. We’ve done manufactured mobile home park deals as well. And we like those three asset classes because if you look back the last 25 years, those have been the top three performers. And if you look forward, those are the top three that are expected to perform very well over the next five or 10 years. And we like assets that perform well in, in a strong market, but also assets that hold up well in a down market that have this resiliency. And so all the deals that we’re looking at and doing right now, you know, we’re projecting that we’re going to go through a downturn or recession and we’re going to likely hold them through that and we feel very comfortable because of the cashflow nature of these value add deals. So every deal we purchase is profitable from day one. We’re not doing any development type deals. Just feel like that right now could be, you know, you can make more money, but it’s more risky and we like to have the combination of really strong cashflow with the value add plan that we can, you know, increase our equity over time and add value to the property. But if we need to scale it back in a certain period of time, we can do that. I mean, we have that flexibility and so you know, I really like to see you know, an average, you know, cash on cash return in the 8 to 10% range. And I just feel like it gives us a buffer there that if we are in a position where we need to cashflow the property and maybe hold through a downmarket, you know, we’re going to be fine, we’re going to be in a good spot. So that’s why we focus it on those, our investors love those types of deals because it gives them an opportunity to have those passive income streams that they can, you know, consistently count on that. You know, they might get 7, 8, 10% annually. And the other reason I like those three asset classes is because of the tax benefits. And those are you know, it’s pretty substantial especially in multifamily where, you know, you’re not having to pay taxes on that cashflow because of the depreciation offset. And in many cases we’re doing cost segregation studies, so there’s just even more of a massive kind of paper loss in the first year or so. And some of these investments, so our investors they like the predictability of the cash flow. They like that it’s not a volatile investment like the stock market. So we see a lot of funds coming over from what, you know, previously had been in the stock market. And that roller coaster ride isn’t fun for most. And so they liked the attractive returns, the cash flow element. And then the tax benefits is kind of like icing on the cake the end of the day.

Charles: What a, what does a passive investor, possibly like a first time passive investor, what should they look for at their deal when they’re looking at deals, they’re looking at different operators, what are the, what are the main factors that they should consider?

Ryan: Yes, I think to start you know, first and foremost their own personal goals. You know, what are they looking to get out of an investment? What is their style? Are they more cashflow oriented or growth oriented? I think that might kind of dictate the type of deal that they want to invest in. But by an d large, most of our investors, they, they, they like the combination of the cashflow and the growth. And so, you know, they should be looking if they’re wanting to make an investment, I mean, all the deals that we’re putting together, by and large, the, the goal is in five years to double your money. I mean, usually, you know, that would mean like a two X multiple. And generally that’s what the target is, what we’re shooting for. But I, I would say they’d want to see a good combination of cashflow and and equity inthat overall returns. So if, if the return over a five year period is going to be, you know, 100% on your money, we’d like to see, or I, you know, we tell the passive investors that maybe 40% of that return is gonna come from the cash flow. So if you’re getting 8% a year, over five years, that’s 40%, and that other 60% is going to come through that value creation inequity through the value add process. So it’s not like the deal is backend for them where they have to wait until the end of the, you know, five years to sell, then, you know, realize that their capital. So a deal where you can get, you know, cash flow coming in at a early pace, in a deal, it is a really solid opportunity because you’re now realizing some of that you know, that the cash cashflow and some of the returns. So you’re essentially taking some of your risk off the table as you’re de-risking over time. And you know, I think also understanding, you know, what is the business plan here? Is it to you know, hold for an extended period of time? Is it to kind of get in, get out and maximize the returns? Are we trying to you know, generate highest IRR? Or is this going to be a property that we might, you know, look at as being more stable, we want to hold onto for a longer period. So I think kind of aligning that with their goals and knowing you know, what the returns are or what they could be but also understanding that, you know, these are illiquid investments, so you are making investment where it’s going to be tied up for, for several years and you have to be comfortable with that. You have to, to know that that’s just the trade off for, you know, maybe receiving more attractive returns and getting all the tax benefits. So yeah, those are definitely, you know, I guess the numbers that I’m, I would look at, but also from, you know, the operator perspective, you know, doing your own due diligence we try to do as much as we can on the front end to kind of prepackage the opportunities. But each investor, I mean it’s just this is their own capital. They have to also do their own due diligence. And so some of the things I alluded to earlier that we do, I think it’s prudent for them to do their own research and to talk with others that maybe had invested with them before. Because one thing I do see a lot of investors, they invest together, they’ve got friends or partners and so usually when one goes in, the other goes in. So there’s kind of this herd mentality when you found a good deal or a good opportunity or you like a certain sponsor and they’ve done well, that the repeatability of these investments is pretty large. And then we see a lot of that in our deals because the comfort level sets in once you kind of make that decision and you kind of know what to expect, you know, how the communication is, you know just, you know, what, what the plan is and maybe it aligns with your goals. So it becomes easier I think over time. But it’s usually that first deal that you know, there, there’s a lot of hesitation and you kind of feel like, all right, maybe you’re jumping off the cliff, but the numbers that we see are very high from, you know, investor doing their first deal to doing many more because it becomes a strategy at some point where they’re diversifying their, you know, their investment portfolio and, and trying to, you know, not keep all their eggs in one basket, that, that could be pretty volatile for them over time. So that’s kind of it in a nutshell. I don’t know if I miss.

Charles: No, definitely. The referrals and the group investing is a big thing because if someone’s invested before and then they’re partner a associate of that or just say, well I’m trying, you know, I’m going, do you have another deal in a different market? Well I’m not really familiar with that. And then it’s as you said, one invest the rest of them the best. And then also the referrals as well. And you spoke to someone here that invested with you and now I want to invest in something that you have coming up. So that’s extremely powerful and it’s, it’s definitely how most investors and they also, I think I found out is the higher net worth the investor as the passive investor. The less they look at the per deal and they’re more looking at the operator and they’re looking at the general partner team and they’re kind of, this is shiny shiny book I’m going to put over here with the OM on it and that’s great. But like tell me about your goals. Tell me about your experience. And I think that’s a much different a much different due diligence activity I guess you would say compared to the traditional wipe look through here. And this has higher numbers than this one over here. You know what I mean?

Ryan: Yeah, I would definitely agree with you. The more sophisticated maybe high net worth investor, they’re there. They’re putting a greater value on the relationship and the partnership than the numbers. Because like I said before, all the numbers are relatively the same. I mean, within a percent or two we’ve never seen one deal that, you know, is head and shoulders above the rest. I mean they all kind of have the same story, the same business plan. I mean, just pick a different market. And that’s a different sponsor and you’re going to generally see on paper the same sort of strategy, the same numbers, but it’s behind that paper is the team and their ability to execute and how they communicate with investors and how they, you know, reacted when they’re facing adversity and how transparent they are. I mean, that all matters. Because at the end of the day, I mean, you could have a great deal and, and, and be a bad operator and mess it up and you can have an okay deal, but a really strong operator and they could turn that deal around and make it you know, very worthwhile investment for investors. So I think, yeah, the, the more sophisticated investors place a lot more weight into that particular sponsor and that operator and knowing that that they’ve gotten, they also actually the ones that are think about how I’m going to frame this. But they’re very passive. You know, they know kind of the drill. They, they, they, once they make the decision that they there’s not many times questions come up because they understand that it’s a long process. It’s going to take you know, a few years. But they believe in the team where they’re not kind of scrutinizing every little adjustment or announcement or you know, they, they get at the longterm and they believe in the, of the operator and they let them kind of, you know, go and do their job and they’ll benefit from it on the backend.

Charles: Well, they have money, they’re usually busy, so making more money. So it’s kind of what books or resources do you recommend to first time investors, whether it’s active or passive?

Ryan: So I mentioned before, obviously the, the rich dad poor dad book by Robert Kiyosaki’s is a great one for anyone that hasn’t really grasped the concept of taking your earned income and making it more passive and you know, really kind of purchasing assets versus a, you know, liabilities and, and really, you know, letting your money grow for you. 24/7 when you’re out doing something else. Other book I really like is it’s the best ever apartment syndication book by Joe Fairless. He really kind of lays out all the details of putting a syndication together, buying your first, you know, apartment complex. Just the process, what takes to raise capital to find investors to underwrite the deal, to asset manage the deal. He goes through a lot of specific examples. So I thought it was very beneficial, very well written. There wasn’t really a book out there at the time when he wrote it, that really went through that level of detail. So I would recommend you know, any investors interested in these types of opportunities to look at that book and read it.

Charles: That’s a very detailed book. I mean it’s like an encyclopedia. Oh, that’s awesome. So where can people learn more about you and your business.

Ryan: So they can go to McKennaCapital.com It’s probably the easiest way to connect with me. And from there you know, they can sign up to join our investor distribution list and they can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook. We’re kind of all over. They’re on all the social sites, but just head to my website, McKennacapital.com. And we can connect from there.

Charles: Yeah, no, I’ll put all those links in the bottom and I’ve been on your mailing list for years, so it’s a, it’s great getting all your different offerings that come through and what you’ve, what you’re working on. So, but well thank you very much for being on the show today and yeah, I look forward to connecting sometime in the near future.

Ryan: All right, well thanks a lot Charles. I appreciate you having me on.

Charles: I’ll talk to you soon.

Ryan: All right, thanks.

Charles: Hi guys, this is Charles from the Global Investors Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the show. If you’re interested in investing in real estate and you don’t know where to begin, set up a free 15 minute strategy call with me at schedulecharles.com. That’s schedulecharles.com.

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Announcer: Nothing in this episode should be considered specific, personal or professional advice. Any investment opportunities mentioned on this podcast are limited to accredited investors. Any investments will only be made with proper disclosure, subscription documentation, and are subject to all applicable laws. Please consult an appropriate tax legal, real estate, financial or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own information is not guaranteed. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. The host is operating on behalf of harborside partners incorporated exclusively.

Links and Contact Information Mentioned In The Episode:

About Ryan McKenna

Ryan McKenna is a full-time real estate investor, syndicator, and founder of McKenna Capital, a private equity firm that provides passive investing opportunities in commercial real estate. Focusing on value-add multifamily, self-storage and manufactured home parks, McKenna Capital has helped investors allocate capital across 8,500 units with a combined asset value over $900,000,000.


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