This 31-Year-Old Investor Nearly Quadrupled His Multifamily Housing Empire From California to Texas in Just 3 Years

This 31-Year-Old Investor Nearly Quadrupled His Multifamily Housing Empire From California to Texas in Just 3 Years
  • Sean Kia is one of Insider’s Rising Stars of Real Estate for 2022.
  • In two years, he’s raked in hundreds of millions by flipping apartment buildings in the Southwest.
  • He applies the Ford production model to real estate. Here’s how he built his empire.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.



Sean Kia via Business Insider

Sean Kia

Los Angeles-native Sean Kia, 31, has been a bit busy the last few years.

Between 2019 and now, Tides Equities — the investment company he founded in 2016 and has run ever since — has built a small empire of apartment complexes in Sun Belt cities like Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix.

Just three years ago, Tides owned $2 billion in the apartment properties. According to Kia, today that figure has risen to $7.5 billion.

In that time frame, Kia said Tides has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars for itself and its investors by fixing up decades-old buildings and reselling them. Tides deployed $7 billion in 2021 and 2022 alone, making it one of the country’s most prolific buyers even as the overall market for multifamily properties was cooling, due to rising interest rates.

With Kia at the helm, Tides counts more than 600 individuals as his investors in addition to family-office and private-equity capital, including major firms such as KKR. The company now has 31,000 units across its portfolio.

This was a vision that Kia had at just 25.

An assembly line approach to real estate investment

After several years in the business of buying and selling apartment buildings for other companies, Kia noticed there were ways to make the process more efficient by reducing renovation times.

After several years in the business of buying and selling apartment buildings for other companies, Kia noticed there were ways to make the process more efficient by reducing renovation times.

The Tides on 7th apartment complex in Phoenix was a recent acquisition. Tides Equities via Business Insider

So, he started Tides and applied the Ford model of large-scale production to his deals. His primary trade was to renovate properties and then sell them at a profit. The assembly-line approach was very useful.

“Let’s create an assembly-line approach to real-estate investing and do the exact same thing on every single building that we buy,” he said, recalling the drive to start his business. “Because you eliminate variables, there are no risks. “

Kia reeled off a few examples of Tides’ business. In July of 2020, it bought a 236-unit apartment building in Phoenix for $27 million, spent $3 million on upgrades, and sold it just over a year later for $59 million. In another deal, it paid $89.5 million for a 472-unit apartment building in October of 2020, spent $4 million on renovations, and sold it for $137 million in November 2021.

Because Tides uses much the same renovation plan for each acquisition, it can often start the work even before the ink on the sale contract dries. Because Tides usually secures financing in advance, this is possible.

The perfect spots

Another secret of Kia’s is his attention to location. He said that cities must be affordable, fun, and well-placed for in-migration.

He’s been checking those boxes since he got a start in Phoenix, which became home to some of the company’s bread-and-butter investments. The typical renter had been paying only 20% of their income on rent, which represented “really good affordability,” Kia said.

“It seemed like it had all the fundamental sort of tailwinds that could really help propel Phoenix to one of the major investment markets,” he said. We were absolutely correct a few years later. Phoenix is one of the top five cities in the country. “

Read More