Investor Profile: Mike Conlon, The Main Street Millionaire
Mike Conlon always knew since childhood that he wanted to be a real estate millionaire, even when he didn’t know what that meant. Though it wouldn’t be until 2002 that Mike would enter his first real estate transaction he did set the stage for huge success in the business early on through the critical pillars of commercial real estate: law and finance. After earning a law degree from the University of Minnesota, Mike entered the world of financial planning in 1992 and owned a broker-dealer until 1998 where he grew sales from $1.2M to over $40M and sold the business to a large national insurance company. In 1999 he took another financial planning business to $100M in assets and sold it in 2002. Only then did he begin his future as The Main Street Millionaire with the acquisition of a 8-unit apartment building in Wisconsin. Thirteen years later he is now the CEO and majority owner of Affordable Communities Group and his vision of the industry is continually soaring!
MQ: Mike, you’re known as “The Main Street Millionaire.” What is the backstory on how you earned the reputation?
MC: After I had some great successes investing in affordable housing my friends gave me the moniker because they said it represented what I was doing: taking an ordinary, somewhat ugly, business and making it extremely profitable and very presentable. MHP investing is a main-street business helping everyday people, not a Wall Street business benefitting only the rich.
MQ: You came into commercial real estate in 2002 but didn’t own your first MHP until 2006, and in Florida, one of the states that was hardest hit during the 2008 crash. You’ve since grown your portfolio to 31 MHP’s comprising approximately 4,000 lots. How did you get out of Florida unscathed when so many perished?
MC: I always wanted to be a real estate millionaire but when I finally got in the business I knew nothing about commercial real estate. After selling my financial planning company in 2002 I made my first CRE investment: an 8-unit apartment building in my home state of Wisconsin. In 2003 I moved to Orlando, Florida and bought seven more apartment complexes between 64 and 120 units. My first MHP was the last property I bought in Florida, which was an 80-space park in Lakeland where you could reach out your window and literally touch your neighbor’s home. I learned that it was true that MHP’s are easier to manage than apartments. I sold them all including the MHP in 2006 and moved to North Carolina, a much more stable economic climate for CRE investing at that time.
MQ: Your website at www.themainstreetmillionaire.com has very direct and interesting information about the general state of the economy and disparities between rich and poor. Where do you see affordable housing, particularly mobile home parks, heading?
MC: Right now I see MHP owners in their mid-60’s to 80’s who have owned a park(s) for 15 to 20 years and are ready to cash out. I see the demand for MHP’s and other affordable housing growing stronger in the U.S. as the disparity between the rich and poor grows wider. MHP’s do well in any economy.
MQ: When you are looking at a deal, what appeals to you most? And, any exciting prospective properties on the table right now?
MC: Yes, we are filling in acquisitions in our current key markets: North Carolina, Alabama, and Ohio. The key factor for our deals is cash flow. Every deal must cash from from day one and I must be able to get a 20% cash-on-cash return within 6 to 9 months.
MQ: Are you looking for co-investors at this time?
MC: I am very particular about who I let invest and it would have to be the right fit. I am the majority owner of Affordable Homes Group and majority owner on every deal as I want to control the decision making.
MQ: You mentioned that you sold everything to move to North Carolina, home-base in the state, and that it is one of your key markets. Why North Carolina?
MC: It is a great place to do business from a landlord’s standpoint and it has a great quality of life.
MQ: You’ve also written a best-selling book. What inspired you to write it and which books have influenced you?
MC: The book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” had a huge influence on me and got me started in commercial real estate. That book was my mentor. I decided to write my book “Unconventional Wealth: How To Become A Main Street Millionaire Helping Others Get What They Need” to show people who didn’t have the STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, and math/finance) that there are still huge opportunities in this economy.
MQ: We’ve guided our readers this year on the 1031 exchange. Have you ever done a 1031 Exchange and what was your experience like?
MC: Yes, a 1031 exchange is how we transitioned from Florida to North Carolina, actually. We 1031’d the apartment money from Orlando up to an MHP in North Carolina and it was a very smooth process. We had no problems, and we’ve been doing great business in North Carolina ever since.
Thank you to Mike Conlon for his generous time speaking to us about his knowledge, opinions, experience and insight!