The Art of Making a Great Sandwich: A Peek Behind What It Takes to be a Good Real Estate Owner-Operator

Real estate investing has an exciting allure. High-flying executives boarding planes to evaluate potential real estate investments, brokering lucrative deals, and then riding off into the sunset. Sounds exciting! What people don’t see is all the hard work and diligence that goes into managing the property before it is sold at a (hopefully) significant profit.

At Lucern, we analogize real estate investing to making a sandwich. The two slices of bread represent the acquisition and disposition of the asset. The meat of the sandwich is the property operations, all the heavy work that goes into making a successful investment: leasing, maintenance, collections, marketing, property upgrades, unit renovations, etc.

In this month’s post, we will walk through all the not-so-glamorous, but essential aspects of real estate investing that drive long-term value and create strong risk-adjusted returns.

Assemble an A team

Multifamily property management is very demanding. Assembling a team of experienced property managers, contractors, maintenance personnel, and leasing agents is essential for the property’s long-term success. This team will ensure the business plan is executed correctly and will also be the main point of contact for potential and current tenants. Having the right team in place from the start is even more important for owners with investments in MSAs dispersed across the country.

Capital Improvements

A key component in value add projects is the development of design specifications that will maximize the value of the asset.  Capital improvements can include exterior renovations, common space upgrades, landscaping, signage, and more.  Interior rehab of units can consist of kitchen and bath upgrades, flooring, painting, etc.  Partnering with the right contractors and overseeing the execution of the capital plan is an essential part of property operations.

Construct a solid property management marketing plan

Marketing is one of the most important roles in multifamily property management. Having the right leasing agents on the team can set an owner-operator up for success. The roles and responsibilities of a leasing agent include marketing the property, providing insight on rental comparables, handling showings, and being available to answer questions. A strong marketing strategy is essential for creating awareness about the property to entice the right tenants. Since most renters search for apartments online, the first step is to create a beautiful website that gets people excited about living in one of the apartments. Engaged leasing agents will post updates of tenants using the amenities or property improvements on social media so people can get a sense of what it would be like to live there. They will also devise marketing incentives and events to get younger tenants to show up for open houses and get excited about living in the complex.

Select the right tenants

The leasing agent is doing a great job of attracting potential renters’ interest, but are these renters the right ones for the long-term strategic plan? As a property owner-operator, this is an important question as it will largely determine whether the asset meets the projected return profiles. Although no tenant screening method is foolproof, there are certain questions to ask potential renters, such as::

  • Why are you moving?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Will you agree to a background/credit check?
  • Can you provide references?

Perform ongoing property maintenance

It is essential for a property’s long-term success for the owners to stay actively involved, as a lot of work goes into maintaining the properties and individual units. Ongoing multifamily property management involves repairing damaged structural features, pest control, repairing fixtures, and meeting with tenants to ensure they’re happy. It also includes finding ways to make small but meaningful upgrades to keep tenants happy and to ensure the asset remains competitive with similar local properties.

Some strategies for keeping on top of property and unit maintenance include:

  • Conducting regular inspections
  • Using preventative property maintenance
  • Leveraging technology to gather maintenance data for each multifamily unit


There’s more to investing in multifamily real estate than acquisitions and dispositions. Similar to the art of making a great sandwich, a lot of work goes into increasing the value of a property asset. Experienced owner-operators understand this and have processes in place to ensure properties are well maintained, positioned correctly in the market, and managed by a top-tier team.