Create a Recession-Resistant Real Estate Portfolio with Mark Khuri

Mark Khuri, founder of SMK Capital, has been an avid real estate investor for over 17 years. In this episode, our guest will discuss strategies to create a recession-resistant real estate portfolio while investing in affordable housing. We will also talk about adjusting your investment strategy to weather current marketing conditions.

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Create a Recession-Resistant Real Estate Portfolio with Mark Khuri

Shannon Robnett  00:00

Hey, everybody, welcome to Season Two of the Real Estate Run Down. In this episode, our guest will help me discuss strategies to create a recession proof real estate portfolio while investing in affordable housing. I know those things don’t really sound like they go together. But my guest Mark curry has been a master of that for years. So we’re going to jump right into this conversation and see what you can do to follow Mark and whether market conditions whether they’re current, past, present, or future, and have success. So welcome to the show. Mark curry. How are you, Mark? Thanks, Shannon doing great. So Mark, you are the Vice President and coco-founder-founder of SMK Capital. How long have you been in that position?

Mark Khuri  01:35

Sure. Yeah. We started our company 2010. Formally, Shannon.

Shannon Robnett  01:39

So you’re a spring chicken, you’re brand new to the game, right? You started you started this process when it was really at the bottom of the market or, actually, on still on the downward slide, right? Well, I started investing in 2005. And so kept investing through 2010. Just family and myself, grouping our capital together, then 2010, we formally went out created our company and started expanding so we could partner with others that liked and trusted us as well. So you know, Mark, that’s one of the questions that everybody you know, there was a there was a time 2005 six and seven. For those of you kids that weren’t there was a very attractive time everybody was in real estate, ’08, ’09, ’10 and 1’1. You were a leper if you were still in it, right? What was your philosophy as you transition from the last bull market in real estate? ’05, ’06, ’07? How did you transition your strategy to ’08, ’09, ’10? And then what are you what are you seeing similarly, even though this isn’t a wait, we all know it’s not a wait, what do you see similarly, in where we’re at now?

Mark Khuri  02:54

Yeah, some good questions, Shannon. So as far as the transition, you know, we focused heavily on kind of buying distressed properties. A lot of it was all cash direct from the bank foreclosures, reo, short sales. In 2008, you know, my brother and I partnered, we bought a four Plex it was 75% vacant, we overpaid, we over renovated, it took so long, you know, we learned some, you know, some powerful lessons from that one deal, but we held it for, I don’t know, 9/10 years.

Shannon Robnett  03:28

So you said a couple of really important things. I want to back up and hit right now. You said all cash?

Mark Khuri  03:33


Shannon Robnett  03:34

And you said held for nine or 10 years? In the current market? Those are two things that nobody does. Sure. Is that why you survived?

Mark Khuri  03:45

I think what we were focusing on was helped us survive, Shannon was creating value, right. And so we were buying, again, distressed whether it was financed or not. Just think about that, in general. And we were growing value manually, right. And we weren’t relying on market appreciation, we were effectuating change by doing a lot of heavy lifting. And so a lot of that still applies today, where we’re not just hoping that the market is going to create our returns. We’re engineering them in a sense. So that’s a little bit how we look at it.

Shannon Robnett  04:16

You know, and I think that that is, you know, we had a lot of the same conditions in oh eight that we had two years ago or 12 months ago, we had easy money. We had lots of it, right, which allowed for higher leverage positions. Obviously, this time, we didn’t have the, you know, the the exploding negatively amortizing loans, but we still had, you know, low interest rates which created artificial value, not artificial value. The value was real at that interest rate. But when interest rates changed, people saw equity eroding in 2008 .Money was easy, but you still chose to go the all cash route. What was your thought process? Just behind that.

Mark Khuri  05:02

Yeah, I mean, so obviously, the financing markets have pretty much dried up for the type of assets that we were targeting shin. And so part of our thought process was, was, hey, we were able to buy stuff at 50 60% off what they were selling for just two years ago. Let’s go do some of that. And let’s build a portfolio around it. And, obviously, if there’s no financing readily available, or at least attractive financing, you know, we still felt that the FBI was where we were making our money. And, and again, these were heavy lifts chant, and we don’t focus on that strategy anymore. But we were putting a lot of dollars into them to renovate them, right? And so some of that financing wasn’t available either for the for the renovations,

Shannon Robnett  05:44

I’m laughing, Mark, because all of us start out with a heavy lift. As as we get older, I believe it’s our optimism that erodes. We’ve done the heavy lift. You know, we’ve seen where I mean, I remember one time I bought a 2,300 square foot house for five grand, right? It had to be moved. I don’t know that you get a heavier lift than that. But it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I got through it. But I think that that’s I think that that says a lot for your investment thesis, your thought process, you know, you were coming in, you were looking at, at manually adding value. You know, we’re in the development world for the most part. And we add value by actually assembling the sticks and stones the first time you came in with your deal you assembled. I’m assuming three quarter vacant it was because very dilapidated, you know, mismanaged. And there was a lot that had to be cleaned up. And then you you saw that, you know, we can buy this for what was your first purchase? How much was that? Three quarter empty? Four Plex?

Mark Khuri  06:57

You know, that one? Shannon? We overpaid, Three-quarter right? So we bought it in oh eight, which at that time, the market prices hadn’t necessarily adjusted in that in that area. But for the next couple years what we were buying predominantly, then again, not what we do today, but was a lot of single family, small multifamily. And again, at the courthouse steps, that kind of stuff.

Shannon Robnett  07:20

But when you sold that asset, that Four Plex, 10 years later, were you profitable?

Mark Khuri  07:28


Shannon Robnett  07:29

See, that’s the thing, Mark, you’ve been in this game since oh, five, right. You’re brand new at this, just like I am right and, and Mark, for my audience marks 25 years old. That’s just what real estate will do to you. Right now you’re not. But the reality is, if you hold the asset, if you if you bring enough cash to the table, that that it’s not something you’re going to lose to the bank. That way, you don’t have to worry about guys like Mark picking that up in his early career. But you’re going to be able to make money in real estate, real estate will give you returns if you give real estate the time. But I think a lot of people treat real estate, like a, like a stock pic. Right? That we’re going to buy this, we’re going to flip this and in six months, we’re going to get out of it. And we’re going to be able to have these things. And so it’s refreshing, Mark, to hear that your strategy is, is founded in the best of times, the worst of times. And you you were doing some of this stuff. Let’s fast forward to the last 24 months. Give us your company been doing in the last 24 months with the markets that we that we see again in real estate.

Mark Khuri 08:45

Sure. Yeah, I’ll give you a little bit of a background here, Shannon, which I think will help about how we see things today. So in 2018, or so we stopped focusing on a lot of single family small multifamily, we really were focusing on recession resistance, and created a fund recession resistant fund, we put together mobile home parks, self storage and apartments into one offering for our investor group. The purpose of that Shannon was to weather a storm, we felt there was going to be a correction soon. And so we closed that investment in 2019 to new capital. Everything we were targeting was a five to 10 year hold with value add strategy. And so there’s a combination of income and growth as an investor would look at it. And then of course COVID Hit we stopped investing entirely for seven months trying to figure out what was gonna happen was there going to be distressed or tenants gonna stay in pay is occupancy going to drop or assets gonna go back to the bank, you name it and that didn’t happen. And so we started investing again in Q3 2020. We saw a ton of demand for are from residents and also from investors who we sell product to and other equity groups. And so we started investing Shannon within two to three year holds, we were looking for properties we could effectuate change come and put a lot of dollars into them and renovate them and take advantage of the tailwinds that the market was giving us and some of those tailwind shadows, you know, massive rent growth, a lot of cap rate compression, which is valuation growth to natural market appreciation. And when we couple that with manual renovations, value add, you are recreating a recipe for a really great return. Fast forward to earlier this year 2022, we stopped investing in short term deals again, and we pivoted back to recession resistance, we’re now looking more at cash flowing assets five to 10 year hold fixed rate debt, again, not trying to sell at the wrong time, right? If there is a correction of recession, we want to just continue to hold and not be forced to get out at the wrong time.

Shannon Robnett  11:08

So Mark, I’m gonna ask you a question back to a statement you made earlier that you overpaid and ’08. I just heard you mention on three different occasions where it sounds like what happened to you and ’08 taught you a couple of lessons that you’ve employed now, on a magnified scale. So can you really stand comfortably behind that statement that you overpaid in Oh, eight? I mean, to me, it sounds like oh, wait was a learning lesson? Right. That was let’s see, I think that was advanced real estate 206. Right. It was a three-credit course, lasted 10 years. Right? But but you know, that’s the thing that I hear more and more in the voice of experience, you know, that, hey, we’ve we’ve made some pivots. We’ve looked at the markets, we’ve seen how they work. We’ve you know, and what I heard you say is that in 18? You, you pivoted toward recession resistant, and you weren’t entirely correct. But you weren’t wrong on the wrong side. You were wrong on the better side, right. And then you looked at some things you held off for investing for seven months, that could have you could have looked at that, and said, Why did you guys miss out, however, look at all the deals that you missed that could be going sideways now. And so there’s a lot of prudence in that. And that’s the one thing that I that I hear it a common theme with experienced investors on this podcast and in other conversations is that we’re not in a hurry. You know, we’re not running to take down the deal. We’re not throwing our hat in the ring and going, you know, hard money non refundnonrefundablend, and jumping at these things and going Yes, I can underwrite that at a 2.6 cap because I can magically do things to the market that have never been seen. Because experience tells us that, you know, and it’s awesome to hear people with experience. Both last time it was good. And last time, you know, the last time we saw any kind of constriction in the market was ’09, ’10 and ’11. And so, now that you’re focused on this, you’ve used this term recession, recession resistant several times, and you threw out mobile home parks, you threw out self recession-resistan-storage. Why are those asset classes, in your mind, recession resistant?

Mark Khuri  13:36

Sure, I mean, there’s a couple of reasons I can get into shin and on each asset class, we’ll start with mobile home parks. First, you have the most affordable housing option in the US. And so during tough times, recession economic downturn, we’ve historically seen the demand for mobile home parks go up. And in addition to that, you have a very limited supply asset class. It’s really hard to create, develop,and  build new mobile home parks, for a lot of reasons. You might know this as a developer, I’m sure but we put those two items together. That’s often why we consider it to be recession resistant. So you have an asset that will remain in high demand during tough times.

Shannon Robnett  14:24

Now, you’ve done research, you’ve looked at what happened the last downturn, you saw how those assets performed. I know that in the last downturn, self storage was like numero uno, right? I mean, it was it was the best asset class to be in. Because while people were losing their houses, they weren’t losing their stuff. So they had to store that somewhere where they downsized.

Mark Khuri  14:45

Yeah, yeah. A lot of that comes back to supply and demand, right? And how do they change and adjust during tough times. So the same with storage. You see the demand for storage go up during tough times people are moving they’re downsizing. They’re, they’re changing something in their life and when that happens, the demand for storage goes up. And so we got into these asset classes Shannon, right after the recession in 2008, because we saw how they were doing during that time where there wasn’t a lot you could point to and say, Wow, that’s still performing. And so we still invested them today.

Shannon Robnett  15:15

So  you’ve been through this whole downturn, you saw when credit totally dried up, you saw when an over there was really an oversupply in the market in a wait, because everybody gave up their house and move somewhere else. So we, you know, we were flush with product, there’s not a lot of similarities between then and now. Now we have an interest rate that’s climbing, we have prices, that escalated because of the lower interest rate. And so we had some some growth there. And now we’re trying to bring the interest rate back to the market price, which is causing some friction. But there’s still money available, there’s still lots of money available. What are you looking forward? What’s what’s what’s the mark curry 24 month window on what someone should expect, with with capital markets, and where you see things going with the affordability product?

Mark Khuri  16:10

Yeah, you know, a third of the capital markets, Charlotte, nobody knows, of course, we have a lot of forward guidance from the Fed raising interest rates, you know, we are in September of 2022. And so there’s a lot of uncertainties still, we’ve experienced rapid interest rate growth over the last, you know, six months or so. And we’re projecting and estimating that to continue. And so capital markets are volatile, they’re going to remain volatile for the short term. I think at some point, once the Fed reaches its goal, and inflation is back to more historically, normal levels, we may see that interest rate growth, stop and maybe go back down. So we don’t know. So that we don’t have a crystal ball. But what we know is, it’s making things harder to pencil, it’s making things a lot harder for as far as deal flow to find good investment opportunities. And so we keep coming back to where we see long term demand, which an affordable housing shelter where, again, as I mentioned, before we started talking, we use that a little bit loosely, we think of a mobile home parks as affordable we think of typically Class B workforce housing in growth markets as an affordable option. And those types of assets. You’ll see again, during volatile times demand typically stays very strong, often goes up where people might be downsizing, trying to save some money, maybe they’re paying, you know, 1800 a month for a class A property and they’re going to, you know, move down the road a couple miles and pay 1200 a month for a class B property and that kind of concept. So yeah, what question is, is that brand new, I just threw it.

Shannon Robnett  17:52

But what part of that mark, there’s also the argument, I want to play devil’s advocate for just a second because after those last statements, you are incredibly knowledgeable in what you see in the capital markets. But when you see people go, Yeah, but it’s it’s the workforce that’s getting crushed, because gas is still over $4 a gallon. Chicken has never been higher priced. And a gallon of milk is you know, over three bucks at my supermarket. So that squeezed them the most where Class A maybe, you know, maybe there’s a layoff but they had some savings, maybe they’re staying in their C suite job. And maybe they’re maybe they’re moving from a Class A in Los Angeles to a Class A and Reno, because they can work remotely. What is what is your what is your counter to that? Or what is your what is your thought process that says yeah, but

Mark Khuri  18:46

Yeah, I mean, there’s so many trends going on, as you noted, some of them Shannon, so for example, you know, we’ve been investing in Phoenix for the last number of years, we’ve gotten into Las Vegas in the last two years. We love Texas. And so we’re focusing on markets, again, where there’s high demand, you have very high net in migration as well, as you kind of alluded to the number of people moving, for example, from the West Coast, California to some of these markets, I just mentioned, is a very steady, attractive trend that we see. And again, we want to benefit from that. A lot of people can work remotely. Shannon, you mentioned that and so we’re seeing that we’re seeing you know, you can drive from LA to Vegas and Phoenix and be there in the afternoon. Right. And so people are doing that doing that 1000s of people are doing that regularly. And so what but what means follow the trends, right? We’re looking for long term sustainable investments where we think there’s going to be a lot of demand continues to be a lot of demand. And we’re always looking at our exit shadow right. So we don’t invest in office at all wise because I don’t think in 5 to 10 years there’s going to be as many people buying office as today. I think that is good going down. So we’d like to be an asset classes where we think, who are going to sell to that buyer pool is going up. And that’s been a trend of ours and a strategy of ours for many years.

Shannon Robnett  20:11

Sure. You know, the other thing that you mentioned is you said, you know, deals don’t pencil. And, you know, if interest rates continue to rise, as you experienced, there’s always sellers. And there’s always people that are going to be put in a situation that the continued rising interest rates are going to cause their deal to no longer be affordable for them. So as you’re, you know, when you’re looking at when you got started in real estate, obviously, you got started for cash, but interest rates were in the seven the eights, when we go back to that, what do you think’s going to happen? That’s going to change? Why a deal will pencil with a higher interest rate then today, that would allow you to purchase it?

Mark Khuri  20:58

Yeah, I mean, most likely, it’s going to be some cap rate compression. That’s the reality of it. I see. You’re still an expansion knock.

Shannon Robnett  21:06

Okay. Yeah, I was like, Well, wait a minute. So you believe that we’re going to see cap rates expand. You know, I was looking at a deal the other day, they were looking at a five cap on something and the debt was coming into five and a quarter, there’s no, there’s no arbitrage there, right. So so you’re gonna see cap rates expand, which really, for those that are maybe new or, or don’t really understand cap rates, that means price goes down, that means you’re collecting the same amount of rent, but your price goes down. Because you’re what you’re getting on your capital return is an 8% return, which means that you’ve got to have more of that free cash flow coming to you as the investor rather than to the bank. And so when you’re seeing that cap rate compression, or expansion, you got me saying it, Mark, when you see that, that means that you know right now, and we’ve seen this over the last couple of months, we’ve seen buyers and sellers be really far apart. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen sellers get a little bit more reasonable, we call it right, they’re just understanding that you know what, I did make a good return. And if I do want to sell now, it’s going to be at these levels rather than these levels. And there’s also going to be that, that that product that you really kind of cut your teeth on in the market coming back into the market, because like we discussed prior to pushing the record button, there’s people that have gotten that, you know, that floater three year bridge that they, you know, are bringing the deal together, and they were gonna get their take out financing on a 10 year fixed at four and a half percent. And they’ve long past that for in debt. And so their cash flow is being eroded, their investors are starting to question those things. Where do you see from your experience in the world of repos, and things like that? Do you see that being a bigger component in our market moving forward?

Mark Khuri  23:04

You’re talking about distressed single family, Shannon?

Shannon Robnett  23:07

Multifamily, distressed multifamily? Yeah.

Mark Khuri  23:10

Yeah, you know, I don’t know, right. Nobody knows. We haven’t seen it yet. And I think right now, what we see is there’s a lot of uncertainty in buyers eyes, right. And so people want to be compensated for the risk, the uncertainty and compensation comes through typically lower price. And so at some point, there’ll be some stabilization in the capital markets. Yeah. And we don’t know when. And once we get to that point, I think the psychology of the buyer is going to change like, Okay, now we know for with much more certainty, interest rates, or x cap rates are why we can go out and run a pro forma and build an assumptions into our financial model that we feel confident about. Today, it’s a little bit harder to do that. And so that’s where there’s this mismatch that we talked about between buyers and sellers. I don’t know that there’s going to be a lot of distress for a few few reasons. One, we’ve had exorbitant amount of rent growth, okay, way beyond anyone’s financial modeling projections ever put in at least anyone with a conservative eye. And so that’s still happening Shannon, in a lot of these markets, we’re still seeing robust rent growth. And we’re still seeing a lot of premium between an unrenovated unit and renovated units. So you can still grow your net operating income very confidently in a lot of these properties. And that helps offset the risk and the underwriting and the analysis. And so we always project a much higher exit cap rate than what we’re paying today. We’ve been doing that for years, right? And that’s how you can kind of protect your downside. So for me, I’m not sure that there’ll be a lot of distress because especially when multifamily, you’re seeing owners and operators of these assets, reaping some of the benefits of higher rents to help offset the risks that we’re talking about.

Shannon Robnett  25:10

Yeah. You know, and I think, you know, Mark, you and I have been underwriting at higher than normal cap rates, normal being what people have been doing over the last couple of years, for quite some time. I mean, when we build, we build to an eight cap, right. I mean, that’s our goal. So we’ve got timelines, we’ve got, you know, lumber markets, we’ve got products and materials that we’ve got to coordinate we’ve got, you know, we’ve got so many things. I mean, our projects are 18 to 36 months long, and you have no idea what’s going to happen, you know, as we discussed earlier, you know, we’ve had 911, we’ve had COVID, we’ve had, you know, the financial crisis of Oh, eight we had, I mean, we’ve had just all these things that have happened. It’s like, every time we turn around, there’s something. But that’s what makes it exciting. But you said something earlier that your investments are boring? How can your investments be boring in a market, that’s always changing?

Mark Khuri  26:07

Yeah, so we like boring, Shannon boring to me, means that we’re doing some of the same things over and over because they work. So that’s how I use the term for me, I look at 10 to 20 deals a month, we invest in five to seven a year. And so what I’m looking for is very specific. And a lot of times, I guess you could say boring, because we’ve done it a lot of times before, and we have a much higher likelihood that we’re going to be able to continue to do it again. So that’s that’s where we look at the term boring.

Shannon Robnett  26:39

And you know what, that’s the exciting part about it. Because when you’re looking at the 20 deals, you’re not trying to relearn, oh, you know what, let’s look at this type of asset class with this kind of underwriting. It doesn’t fit our wheelhouse, but let’s get exciting, right. There’s other things you do for excitement. Like, I hear your downhill skier. Sure. Yeah. Love it. So you know, and you live in a really horrible place for downhill skiing, don’t you?

Mark Khuri  27:09

Yeah, don’t come here. There’s no snow, it’s not fun.

Shannon Robnett  27:12

Bend, Oregon is phenomenal. If you guys get a chance to go ski there, go ski there and stop in and see Mark. But you know, Mark, it’s, it’s always great to hear somebody that’s been in the industry, and I have a lot of guests that have been in the industry for a long time. But it’s always nice to hear that some people are ahead of the curves, even if it takes them out of the game for seven months during COVID. To miss deals to ensure that the the investment thesis is held solid, I’ve watched so many people run headlong into a knife chasing a deal because they don’t want to miss something. And it’s really awesome. When we get veterans like yourself on the show that have that have been there and done that. What is what is one of the things that you’re most pleased with, as far as you know, what you do in your daily work? In your investment company? What is it that really brings you the most? I don’t know if I want to call it joy, but satisfaction in what you’re doing.

Mark Khuri  28:17

Yeah, you know, so I’m, I’m a deal guy. And I love looking at investment opportunities. Number one, it’s like maybe a slight addiction that I have but I’m a financial analyst by trade I started in finance many years ago. And so maybe that’s part of it, too, is where I’m constantly comparing and analyzing things. But that’s just you know, internally. So when we get an opportunity where the joy comes is like, Oh, great, we’ve got a really exciting deal. I’m really excited to share it with our investors. And then they reap the benefit, right. Right now most of our investors tell me Mark, I’m looking for capital preservation, I’m looking for some cash flow, you know, let’s just just keep it simple, let’s not lose money, right? Because they’re looking, comparing it to the stock market, and to crypto and you name you name it. And so we are able to provide them with an investment option that meets their needs, and they get really happy about it. And so it’s kind of a win win for for all of us. And that’s what we like to do every day.

Shannon Robnett  29:18

You know, and that’s and that’s so true. You know, it’s funny, because we did hint on this about there’s always the new investor right, the new investor that came in and oh seven there was a new type of investor that was investing in foreclosures in oh nine and they chase that all the way to 17 when there were no more and there’s always the new investor, but it is the things that are simple. And you know, that’s that’s why you see guys like, you know, like Warren Buffett who have done the same thing again and again and have gotten incredibly wealthy. And Mark you’ve had a lot of success just by being repetitive, just by you know, you’re not trying to crush it. So you’re not looking for a home run every single time, you’re looking for affordability. You’re looking for high demand, you’re looking for reliability of the tenant structure. And it’s been a winning proposition for you. And you’ve, you’ve invested in over a billion dollars in real estate. I mean, that’s, that’s amazing that you’ve been able to do that with the same boring strategy must be something right about what you’re doing my friend, and congrats on on s a milestone.

Mark Khuri  30:33

Thanks. Yeah, appreciate it.

Shannon Robnett  30:35

So guys, I want to thank you for tuning in to the Real E state Rundown, and especially thank you, Mark, for bringing all the knowledge that you brought today, it’s It’s always refreshing to hear somebody that’s been a veteran that survived, you know, and continue to bring value to your investors. So guys, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe to the real estate rundown. And if you want to get these podcasts, be sure and click the bell, it’ll alert you every time we drop a new one. I’d also love it if you’d leave a review. I’d love to hear back from you. And if you want to know how to get in touch with Mark, you can contact us send us an email at connect at We’ll get you in touch with Mark you can hear more about what he’s doing. And, as always, Mark appreciate your time and appreciate you being on the show.

Mark Khuri  31:20

My pleasure, Shannon. Thank you.

Shannon Robnett 31:24That’s a wrap for today’s episode of The Real Estate Rundown. Let these newfound strategies pave the way to start a successful career or a profound rebranding. If you loved everything you have heard. Liisten to more conversations at and be sure to leave a rating, share it with your friends and subscribe.

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About Mark Khuri:

Mark has been an avid real estate investor for over 17 years and throughout his career, he has been involved in sourcing, underwriting, acquiring, raising capital, rehabilitating, managing, and selling both residential and commercial investments throughout multiple markets in the US. 

Mark has analyzed thousands of investment opportunities and has successfully bought, renovated, sold, and invested in over 120 properties with a combined value of over $1 billion and created and managed over 60 real estate partnerships with investors.