In today’s episode, we chat with Chris Larsen. Chris is the founder of Next Level Income, shares his journey in real estate investing, and offers insights into different asset classes and investment strategies. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the real estate cycle and being cautious of inexperienced syndicators. Chris also highlights the need for active involvement and due diligence in passive investing. He provides resources and opportunities for investors to learn and engage with his company.

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What’s Covered In This Episode

  • Consider the value-add strategy and focus on asset classes with potential for growth and demand
  • Understand the real estate cycle and be prepared for market downturns
  • Choose investment strategies based on your goals and risk tolerance
  • Engage in active involvement and due diligence even in passive investments

Connect with Chris:

  • Website:


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Read The Transcript Here

Trevor Oldham (00:06.313)
Hey everybody, welcome back to the REI Marketing Secrets Podcast. Today on the show, we have Chris Larson. He’s the founder and principal of Next Level Income. Chris has been investing and managing real estate for over 20 years. While still a college student, he bought his first rental property at age 21. From there, Chris expanded into development, private lending, buying distressed debt, as well as commercial offices, and ultimately syndicating commercial properties.

He began syndicating deals in 2016 and has been actively involved in over one billion real estate acquisitions. Chris is passionate about helping investors become financially independent. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris Larsen (00:49.584)
Trevor, great to see you.

Trevor Oldham (00:51.145)
And Chris, for our audience out there, can you take us back to that time when you were 21 and you said, hey, I wanna go out and start investing in real estate because a lot of folks who are 21, real estate’s not in their mind. They’re thinking about partying or what’s going on. Why at 21 did you decide, hey, this real estate thing is kinda cool. Maybe I should look into it.

Chris Larsen (01:12.811)
Yeah, yeah, I’ll try to be concise, but I also, I’ll tell you, if you’re listening today, how to get a free copy of my book before we’re done here at where I talk about my story. And I think really, Trevor, I was forced in a way to grow up quickly. My father died when I was five. So I think I had a probably a slightly more mature view of the world just because I was kind of forced to think about some things and also realize

kind of the realities of the world at a younger age. And that was actually brought into light right before I started investing. And I’ll go into that, but I went to Virginia Tech and I went to Virginia Tech to get an engineering degree. But really, I wanted to race bicycles. I started racing bicycles when I was 14 years old. I was a state champion. I went to national championships multiple times. And I wanted to go to a school that I could, you know, not only get a good education, but also…

I could race my bike. And then my goal was to get that degree, turn pro, and then really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Well, as life has a way, as the universe, or the Lord has a way, my life was derailed off that path when in between my freshman and sophomore years, my best friend passed away. He had a massive brain hemorrhage and he died instantaneously. I went to the hospital to take him some clothes and pick him up.

and the doctor actually brought me back and I was the one that I did my friend who had passed away. I went back to school and I poured my heart and soul into cycling. But after another year of that, I realized that I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t satisfied. And even though I was very successful on the bike, I had ascended to a category one cyclist, which you get to race with the pros at that point.

And all you have to do to become pro is take out a license, which actually my team went pro, but my team went pro and I actually stepped away from the sport. So I went back to school and I was like, you know what? I’m, I am not going to be happy with my life if I just keep riding my bike around in circles. And I was training 20, sometimes 30 hours a week, Trevor. And you know, anybody that, that is trained in a level like that for any

Chris Larsen (03:32.842)
you know that it’s not just the time that you’re training, it’s the time that you eat, it’s the extra time sleeping, it’s the recovery, it’s the stretching, all these things. But also, especially for any entrepreneurs or professionals out there, if you go and do a hard workout, you can’t work as hard mentally either. So it really, it took a lot of energy, a lot of time. And I just made this decision that I wanted to live life on my own terms. And I also realized that to do that,

I needed financial resources. So I set out on this journey toward financial independence. I read 250 books. I was day trading in the stock market to start out as a junior in college. I was making like $1,000 a week day trading in college, which is a junior, that’s not bad. But it was very stressful. And one morning at 3 a.m., after not sleeping all night, I drank like a Monster Energy drink or something and hopped on my bike to go like clear my brain.

this is like crazy. Like this isn’t investing. So I said, there’s gotta be a better way. And ultimately I decided that real estate was gonna be my path, which led me to buying that first property at 21, which basically was a house hack. Then I bought the property next door a year later. So I had six units essentially. And then a year or two after that, bought another property and I continued until I had a small residential portfolio.

And that was my original plan, just to pay that portfolio off and I would be financially free at that point.

Trevor Oldham (05:05.681)
And from there, from having that small residential portfolio, let’s just say for clarification purposes, let’s just say it’s your multifamily asset class. Have you gone out and branched into other asset classes, say car washes or ATMs, mobile home parks? You know, it’s funny, when I got into real estate, I only thought of real estate as just multifamily and apartments and then you start to see all these other asset classes. And then if you go like a step, even if you go like a layer out of that,

Chris Larsen (05:24.444)

Chris Larsen (05:28.971)

Trevor Oldham (05:33.657)
You can invest in art, you can invest in vineyards, you can invest in whiskey and different things like that. But yeah, curious on your end, you know, did you make a shift or you currently invest just in multifamily or these other asset classes?

Chris Larsen (05:34.454)

Chris Larsen (05:47.478)
Yeah, my wife might say I’m invested in whiskey, but I would say I probably drink my investments. I don’t know if that’s a really good thing. No, but all joking aside, I do enjoy a good whiskey, a good bourbon every now and then. But if you read my book, it talks about how to make, keep, and grow your money using the holy grail of real estate. But really, if you read the book, what you’ll find is it talks about the value add strategy. And to your point, Trevor, one of my influences

Graham, who wrote the Intelligent Investor. For people that don’t know, Benjamin Graham was Warren Buffett’s.

Trevor Oldham (06:21.861)
The Intelligent Investor.

Chris Larsen (06:29.202)
mentor and he’s the one that really inspired Warren to invest the way he does. So I’m a big fan of a value-add strategy. I’m also a big fan of multifamily real estate because right now we have a housing shortage in this country. We need about 4 million units. The exact number is like 3.6 or 7 million more units we need somewhere to that effect. It depends on what period you measure, but we need millions of new units of housing in this country. So we got some nice tailwinds. I

the original thesis that I had to get into the space in my book as well. But

There are also a lot of other great areas. There’s self storage. We invest in mobile home parks. We, I feel like mobile homes or mobile home parks are another type of multifamily property, but they are going to perform differently. Kind of like if you’re familiar with the stock market, there’s large cap stock, there’s small cap stocks, you know, there’s gross stocks, there’s all kinds of different stocks and different strategies. So you can, you can believe in a specific strategy, but invest in different types of asset classes.

We have multi-family projects, we have self-storage projects, we have mobile home park projects, we have 31 car washes as well that we own and operate with our vertically integrated operating team. We even own a hotel in Hilton Head Island. And then locally my wife and I have two Airbnbs, we have a commercial office. So I’m a big fan of real estate, Trevor, and you know, if it’s a good deal and I understand where it’s going to go,

it is like if I’m here in Asheville, North Carolina, and I see a good deal come across and I understand the neighborhood and the metrics, that’s what led us to buy the office complex that we did here. But in general, we focus on our first indications for our investors, multifamily, self-storage, mobile home parks and car washes mostly. Yeah.

Trevor Oldham (08:23.981)
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s definitely a couple of different asset classes. I definitely like the hotel and the Hill and Head and definitely this time of year in New York when it’s, when it tops out at like 20, 20 every single day. And I gotta give you kudos to reading The Intelligent Investor. That was a good book, very, very detailed. I found that was a little more difficult to get through than I anticipated, a couple hundred pages there. But yeah, no, yeah, exactly. But you know, that’s great. And when I’m thinking of myself,

Chris Larsen (08:33.718)



Chris Larsen (08:45.166)
It’s a little dry, yeah. It’s a little dry.

Trevor Oldham (08:52.929)
and I’ve gone into passive investing and maybe it’s mentioned in your book or maybe it’s just a strategy of the two and I know you mentioned value add but sometimes when I’m looking at deals I find you have more of your cash flow plays and then more of your equity plays. So like right now I’m in like a triple net lease deal just pure cash flow where I’m in a self-storage development deal where I’m not gonna get a distribution for until they develop the self-storage facility and maybe that’s 12 or 18 months but the returns on that

Chris Larsen (09:05.834)

Chris Larsen (09:11.003)

Trevor Oldham (09:22.817)
equity deal are going to be greater, but I’m getting the cash flow on the tripple at least now. Sooner or later I’m always torn between should I go more cash flow, should I go more equity play. Curious what your thoughts are on that, or do you just like to have a nice mixture of both of those?

Chris Larsen (09:25.014)
Yes. Right.

Chris Larsen (09:35.528)

Yeah, I think, again, that’s a great question. So I would say, just inherently, I’m risk averse.

any project that kicks off cash is going to be typically less risk than something that is more speculative like a development deal, right? Because you’re planning to get your payoff in the future. Now, you also have to ask yourself, if you need income for retirement or you need income to live off of, you’re going to be required to invest in projects that kick off cash. Whereas you’re young, you got a ton of years ahead of you, Trevor. You might say, hey, I’m going to go for this

higher return project that or projected higher return project that might not have as much cash because I’m just going to have to pay taxes on the cash or reinvest the cash. So I think the first thing you have to ask yourself is what are my goals as an investor? And that’s one of the things that we want to understand too before we work with an investor is like what’s your why and what are your goals and like what are you doing? Are you looking for cash today? Are you looking for

Chris Larsen (10:48.976)
portfolio look like? These are all good questions. What are you comfortable with? Because ultimately, we’re not investment advisors, so we’re not going to say, hey, Trevor, you’re young, you should invest in this development deal. Because you might say, hey, my wife has a really great job and we just want some income to replace a portion of my job so I can spend more time with the kids. And that’s going to look different potentially than another type of investor.

say, and I think you kind of hit on it, I may lean towards value add where I have a blend of cash appreciation as well as tax benefits, but you can also engineer a portfolio from pure cash investments, like say a debt fund. We have a debt fund that pays 8% to most investors. And you could blend that with something like that development project that you have. And you could essentially engineer the same characteristics of a value add project

I’m comfortable doing something like that.

Trevor Oldham (11:51.045)
Yeah, I think that advice is spot on, especially mixing the two of them, especially with the debt fund and something maybe a little more aggressive. Curious on your end, I know you mentioned you’ve been in the syndication space since 2016. I noticed at least for more 2020, 2019, or let’s say 2020 on, there’s definitely been a huge uptick in syndicators coming into the spaces. I find that there’s been a lot more coaching programs. I mean, it’s been good for my business, but I found that now it’s…

Chris Larsen (12:16.663)

Trevor Oldham (12:20.601)
you know, a lot of these syndicators that potentially got into the space, almost like an experience where they, you know, it was almost like you could buy any property back in 2020 and double or, you know, get a two, three X equity multiple, you know, fairly short, fairly shortly. But on your side of, you know, coming in from 2016, have you noticed any differences within the, you know, when you’ve been syndicating your deals compared to, you know, seven years later right now, you know, is it harder to find capital? Is it, you know, easier? I don’t know if easier is the correct word, but

Chris Larsen (12:29.824)



Trevor Oldham (12:50.181)
How’s your experience gone over the last seven years, especially say the last two or three years, and I feel like maybe the last six months or so has maybe been harder for some of these syndicators unless say someone like yourself where you already had that pre-built track record where I find newer syndicators it might be a little more difficult to get that jumpstart. And at least for me I’m more hesitant where I’d rather invest with someone like you that’s been around seven years than someone that’s been around say one year. Obviously you have tons more track record than just the seven years.

Chris Larsen (12:54.754)

Chris Larsen (13:10.742)

Chris Larsen (13:15.798)

Trevor Oldham (13:19.525)
I’m doing that, but just using that as an example.

Chris Larsen (13:22.294)
Yeah, no, absolutely. And yeah, like we invested in our first investment as LPs in 2013 in the multifamily space. So I kind of jumped over that part of my story where we moved from residential into, you know, more commercial type projects like multifamily. But yeah, I think, you know, there has been a real uptick in people coming in and syndicating projects. And I mean, look, I always think that, you know,

encourage people to be entrepreneurial and go after things. But yeah, it’s like, is it Warren Buffett that said, when the tide goes out, you can see who’s swimming with no clothes on or maybe attributing that quote to somebody to the wrong person. But you do have to be conscious of people that don’t really understand the real estate cycle. So I talk about this a lot on podcasts and maybe even something that we can come back and chat about.

Trevor Oldham (14:04.459)

Chris Larsen (14:22.588)
I really believe that if you go back through history in this country, you can follow a pattern that’s approximately 18 and a half years. And it dawned on me because I heard this concept 10 to 15 years ago, called a dozen years ago, and I’m listening to it. I’m like doing the math in my head. And I remember that my parents lost both their jobs for a construction company during the savings and loan crisis.

there was a slowdown in real estate, because I started buying real estate in 97, I think it was, 99, sorry, 99, I would have been 21. So then I was very attuned to what was going on in the financial as well as the real estate markets when 9-11 happened and the great financial crisis and then COVID. And I was seeing the patterns that play out within this 18 and a half year cycle, which is made up of two seven year up cycles, a mid cycle slowdown.

in between those seven years and then a four year slowdown after that second seven years. And I’m like, wow, this is like it is repeating and it repeats all the way back through recorded history in the United States, which goes back to the kind of 1850s in the real estate market. So you know, if you look at that and you talk to a syndicator or somebody that either has not been through those cycles in some way, shape or form, or doesn’t even understand that they exist, they think that the real estate market is linear, then I think you

cautious with that. I’m not saying that somebody can’t have been in the market for a couple years and be a great operator. Not at all, but they certainly should have an understanding of how the markets work and they should be prepared for what may happen during those downturns. But I hate it when you talk to people, it’s like, oh, we’ve never had this happen or this or that. It’s like, well, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And that’s something to be

people don’t really acknowledge the potential downside risk.

Trevor Oldham (16:25.389)
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. I know for me, whenever I’m looking to potentially invest with someone, whether they’ve been say syndicating deals or whether they’ve been investing in real estate on their own, I really like to find someone that’s been in the space before 08 and make sure that they came out of it. Because I find that if anyone’s been, you know, gone through that recession and they came out the other side and kept investing in real estate, you know, not that it’s a good thing, but for me, just know they’ve been through that sort of battle. They experienced it. They know what to look for. I really like to see that.

but I know you mentioned a little bit earlier in our call when someone comes to you and they have like a prospective investor call with you and you try to find out their goals. I think that’s excellent, because I know for me, like my goal is to replace my income within seven years. So a lot of these deals that I’m investing in early on are more aggressive, because I have like that five to seven year timeline where maybe in four years from now I’ll just be more of a cashflow play, something a little bit less risky as I get on that time.

Chris Larsen (16:57.806)

Chris Larsen (17:12.439)
Great timeline.

Chris Larsen (17:22.498)

Trevor Oldham (17:25.137)
Timeline, but curious, when someone, let’s say someone had that investor call with their company and maybe they’re, say, three months, six months away from investing, they just don’t have the capital right now or they’re building up the capital and they’re looking to get into a deal in the next few months, how does that communication look like through your company? Are they just, not are they just, but are they on a mailing list? Do you have those sort of touch points? Just curious what someone could expect if they were to book a call with their company and said, hey, Chris and his company sounds great.

I just think in another two or three months, once I have that extra capital, I can invest in one of his deals.

Chris Larsen (18:00.51)
Yeah, great question. So first off, I certainly appreciate people that want to do their due diligence. I spent about a year doing due diligence on the space and talking to different operators before I got into it. So I think that’s important. Like I started as an investor in this space. And I always try to think about, you know, what, you know, what

what do I want as an investor? So I think communication is key from the beginning, but also ongoing to let people know, and be as transparent as possible. So yeah, the first thing is, what are the goals of an investor? What are their experience? What is their experience? And I think people that have invested in real estate make great investors in our projects because they understand some of the features, benefits, but also downsides of real estate. They also understand, especially if you manage your own real estate,

a real pain in the butt to manage your own real estate. So there’s value in that, first and foremost. The other thing is we talked about the why. So when I ran a medical device distributorship, I was in the medical device space for 18 years, and I would sit down with surgeons. Those were our customers. And I’d sit down with a surgeon and they’d say, what do you have to show me, Chris? And I wouldn’t bring any product in for our first sales call because my goal of that call was to find out.

What does the surgeon’s practice look like?

Trevor Oldham (19:23.825)

Chris Larsen (19:23.89)
What procedures do they perform? What does their insurance landscape look like within their practice? And what do they want for their practice going forward? So I think that’s really important. And once we understand, I understand, our team understands what an investor’s looking for, then we can decide, one, are you a good fit at all? And we’ve certainly turned investors down. We said, hey, this is probably not a good fit for you, not just because they weren’t accredited or didn’t have the money. And then two, we try to provide

information. So if you call us and you talk to our team and you want to see past projects, we’ll certainly show you those. We’ll talk about all the different stuff that we do so that you can make an informed decision. And I certainly also don’t think that we’re the only game in town, Trevor. So if an investor says, oh, I’m going to invest with this other group, good. That’s great. If you feel comfortable investing with another group or they have a better asset class for you, I think they’re great.

You shouldn’t be threatened as an operator or somebody that’s going to do that. I’m not getting married to this investor necessarily. They’re in control. They get to pick and choose what they do with us. So it certainly is a partnership, but it’s not a one-way street when it comes to access with that. And then what investors can expect from us. So first off, they’re going to get to check out our website, see all our educational material. We actually have an eight-week course on our website.

And I can give your listeners a code if they use next level all caps if you click on the resources and you click on Our course the code next level you can get that course for $500 off And it’s an eight-week course that walks you through How to make more money how to keep more money proper tax strategy entity structure, but also for our investors out there It’ll teach you how to analyze a deal what questions to ask But also it’ll give you a spreadsheet where you can

take those qualitative questions and quantify them. So determine, hey, you know, I’m intimidated because I’ve never invested in one of these deals and I don’t even know what questions to ask. That’s a really challenging place to be in, right? Because you say, hey, I’m talking to this experienced person. I don’t even know if I’m saying the right things. I don’t wanna sound like an idiot, but.

Chris Larsen (21:42.558)
What are you supposed to say? How are you supposed to get the right information if you don’t know the right questions to ask? So we help investors do that. So I think that’s really important on the front end. And then, if you do have a call with our team and you say, yes, this is something I’m interested in and we agree, then we send out regular emails. Sometimes those are going out on a weekly basis. We usually have a couple funds that are rolling funds. Like we have a debt fund that investors can invest in pretty much year round.

We haven’t done a lot of multifamily deals recently because the numbers haven’t penciled out, but we do have, for instance, a mobile home park project coming up. So our investors that are in what we call our investor club that are on our pre-approved list are gonna be able to get access to that and get to see what those are. So yeah, certainly we wanna make sure that investors know the right questions to ask, have as much information as possible because our view is the better educated an investor is before they make an investment.

that the easier it’s gonna be for that investor, the more comfortable they’re gonna be, but also the easier it’s gonna be for us because we’re not gonna have to answer an uncomfortable question because we didn’t do it the first time. So we wanna make sure we address all those things on the front end as much as possible.

Trevor Oldham (22:58.849)
Yeah, that’s awesome. I think really helping out the potential investor before they invest with your company. You know, I just think of someone investing with their company and they think it’s like a, it’s a liquid investment like the stock market. You know, they put in say 50, 50 or 100,000 and they think they can get their money back out in six months, but no, that’s great. I know when I was first talking to different sponsors, it was more like trial by fire. And I didn’t even think of like having a list of questions and I would just sit there and the sponsor ask.

Chris Larsen (23:10.334)
It is not. Yeah.

Chris Larsen (23:22.295)

Trevor Oldham (23:26.693)
They’d say, do you have any questions you want to ask me? I’d be like, I don’t know what to ask you. So, you know, and I figured it out over time, you know, after talking to so many different sponsors over a couple of years, but yeah, that was, I wish that was something I would’ve had when I first started talking to sponsors. But yeah, that’s awesome. And let’s say we do have someone in this audience that you say, hey, you know, Chris sounds great. I want to invest with this company. And then let’s take it a step further and say they have invested with your company.

What does that look like from a communication standpoint? Did your company send out, is it monthly reporting? Is it quarterly reporting? Just curious how you handle that sort of aspect of client communications.

Chris Larsen (24:06.346)
Yeah, so we do.

Most of

Chris Larsen (24:39.072)
So I think that’s another thing for investors. It is important to be active to a degree, even if you’re in a quote unquote passive investment. And I think it’s really important to understand basic financials. Now it’s easy for me to say, I have an MBA in finance here. And so for me, it’s very easy because it’s like reading like a different language. I can go and look at the financials and understand what’s going on. But if you don’t understand it, take the time to look through that and understand how to read a financial statement,

Look at the monthly stuff. And you should be comfortable asking the operator or the syndicator that you’re working with, hey, what’s going on here if you see something that’s out of line? I think that’s really important. But yeah, our investors are gonna get quarterly updates. They’re gonna get quarterly financials. And of course, they’re always gonna have the ability to schedule a call with myself or our team with any of this stuff, if there’s ever any questions about what’s going on, whether it’s good or bad.

investors don’t get, I think you touched on it, Trevor, most of our investments are not liquid. We do have some that have a liquidity provision in them or some function or some ability to get funds back on a short-term basis. Also, you don’t get to just show up at the property whenever you want and say, hey, I own the property, give me a tour because most of our properties are run by the

you know, buyer management team, and they don’t expect investors to be walking in and out on a daily basis. But that’s the other thing. If you’re an investor, you should look up, say, is this investment properly registered? Is there an LLC or a partnership that it’s registered under? You know, you should be able to call the operator and say, hey, can I go drive by the property? We’ve actually facilitated that for investors so that they can meet with management and do those things. So I’m not saying you can’t do that, but it’s a little different than, you know, owning the house that you own.

and just walk in and out whenever you want and doing that. Like if you own an investment property, you have to be respectful to people that are, you know, customers or residents of that property to do that thing. But you certainly should be comfortable understanding where the property is, being able to step foot on that property and the legal structure that it’s in as well.

Trevor Oldham (26:51.073)
I always find it funny where you say it’s passive investments and it’s all about passive investing but like you hit the nail on the head. I like to say there’s a very active side of it. Obviously I’m giving you my money. I’m not the one that’s managing the property finding the deal but you want to have enough information. I found for me was trying to underwrite the deals on my own just to see if they had penciled out and I wouldn’t spend more than 15, 20 minutes. You know I would take a look at a deal if I like the deal. Let me go through. Let me spend about 15 minutes trying to underwrite the deal on my own.

see if the numbers make sense and just to do it nice and brief. And then I find that even checking out the PPM, you know, making sure that looks good, making sure there’s nothing scary in there. And you know, I’ve seen certain things around like capital calls, you know, you just got to be aware of like if that comes up, you know, what’s going to go on. Like I’ve seen some where the capital call, it’s like if you don’t invest in the capital call, your shares get diluted to 0%. So you basically lose. And different things like that, which, you know.

Chris Larsen (27:31.466)
Yes, read the PPM. Yep.

Trevor Oldham (27:49.529)
is scared but that way you can know beforehand. So I think just doing that due diligence and then you can invest in the deal and then enjoy the passive aspect of it. So even though it is quote unquote passive investing, you still have that aspect of it. But Chris, it’s been great chatting today and for anyone in our audience that is interested in learning more about you, about your company, where should they head off to?

Chris Larsen (27:57.93)

Chris Larsen (28:05.834)

Chris Larsen (28:11.911)
Yeah, I think a great first step, Trevor, is if you’re interested in learning more about us or more about my story or more about our investments, check out Thanks for joining us.

If you click on the book link and you put your address in, we will send you a free copy of the book. You can check that out. You can also get a free digital version or audio book online there as well. You can check out our course under the resources page, the code next level, all caps will save you $500 on that course. And then if you want to talk to a member of our team and learn a little bit more about what we have going on, if you click on the invest link, you can schedule a call with our team and learn a little bit more about what we do as well.

Trevor Oldham (28:49.305)
Awesome. I’ll make sure to include those in the show notes of today’s episode. And Chris, thanks again so much for coming on to the podcast.

Chris Larsen (28:55.938)
Trevor, it’s been great talking to you. Thank you so much.