A Beginner’s Guide to Passively Investing in Syndications: Thoughts From a Rookie Investor to Get Into your First Deal

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago passive syndication investing was a foreign world to me. Twelve months back, I was nose-deep in a course on active real estate investing, researching markets, contacting various agents, lenders, and contractors, analyzing deal after deal, and wondering how I would ever find a cash-flowing rental property with rapidly rising interest rates and zero industry relationships while sitting 2000 miles away from my chosen market! 

When I first heard about syndication investing, it seemed like something reserved for the “elite.” – some sort of “club”. Maybe this was an “advanced” level of real estate investing that I would have to painstakingly work toward with active rentals, in hopes of being invited to “the magical world of passive” some years down the line.

Thankfully, my welcome to this foreign world came far sooner than I had imagined. Today, I can say I’ve been invested in real estate passively for five months and am enjoying the consistent cash flow that multifamily syndication investing brings without the worry of tenants, toilets, or termites. 

So how did I get here, and how can you?

Know Your Goals

Even though I had a consistent stream of capital from my W-2 job, I was limited on free time. This made passive investing sound pretty attractive. Syndications checked the boxes for cash-flowing income and diversified markets and asset classes, and it’s relatively easy to scale. It also provided the opportunity to leverage professional operators’ experiences, relationships, and deal flow – three things that I didn’t yet have on my own. Passive investing provided most of the benefits that active did but without most of the challenges. I decided this was the way for me at this point in my life. 

Dip Your Toes In

I started by going to Left Field Investors’ free monthly Zoom meetings to see what passive investing was all about. After the one-hour meeting, I apprehensively joined the virtual networking session that followed and was pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming and helpful the community was. I was able to hear real-world experiences from my peers who were steps ahead of me, and, once comfortable, openly ask questions and express concerns. I received a ton of encouragement, got plenty of suggestions on how to further explore opportunities, and gained support from others willing to answer my questions down the line. All of this with no commitment and nothing to lose!

Get Educated

I started by listening to podcasts and reading blog posts to get a feel for this new world. Next, I selected ONE asset class that I was familiar with and dove into learning everything I could about it. I had already done research on multifamily investing and had lived in apartment buildings myself, so I started there.

If you are interested in investing in a multifamily syndication, I’d highly recommend reading The Hands-off Investor by Brian Burke. It explains the ins-and-outs of how everything in multifamily syndication works, what to expect moving forward, and what to watch out for along the way. It’s a dense read, but I chipped away at a few pages each day, and soon enough I had a solid foundation and understanding of the entire process. 

Not sure what asset class to start with? The Alternative Investment Almanac by Denis Shapiro can help. 

Develop Sponsor Relationships and Crank Up the Deal Flow

As a passive investor, your main goal is to vet the sponsor. As they say, “A bad sponsor can make a good deal go bad, and a good sponsor can turn around a deal that’s gone sideways.” You want to find sponsors who you know, like, and trust so when a good deal with them comes your way, you are confident and ready to buy in. 

I started by setting up 15- to 30-minute intro calls to meet sponsors and get on their deal list. These calls helped me become familiar with terminology, know what to expect, and recognize differences and similarities between sponsors, deals, and processes.

HOT TIP: You don’t need to “finish” learning to start this process! I was about halfway through The Hands-Off Investor when I started scheduling calls with sponsors. I had a list of questions to ask, and I aimed for 2-3 sponsor calls per week. Your outside learning will prompt questions with the sponsors, and vice versa. Take good notes!

Utilize Your Resources

I attended webinars, listened to podcasts, and read up on blog posts to learn terminology, pick up on common advice, and get a feel for questions being asked by experienced investors. 

The free Masterclass from LFI and Tribevest was a fantastic way to understand passive investing as a whole, and LFI’s Cheat Sheet was an excellent resource when analyzing deals. 

If you’re an Infielder, don’t neglect the additional resources that LFI provides! I used the LFI Sponsor Summary to find sponsors that fit my criteria (asset class, region, investment minimum, accreditation status, etc.). The LFI Sponsor Screener was the perfect list of questions to get started on calls with sponsors. The LFI Deal Analyzer was a great tool to practice deal analysis and prompted more questions that I could post in the Forums when considering a deal. 

Leverage Your Network

You’ve heard the phrase “Your network is your net worth.” Well, it’s true. Relationships are EVERYTHING! Start reaching out to others in the passive investing space as soon as you can… and don’t be scared! The passive investing community is small, and I’ve found that most passive investors will take any opportunity to chat syndications when they get the chance. 


If you’re an LFI Infielder, participate in the forums. Introduce yourself on the New Members thread, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! The forums are packed with good information on sponsors, deals, theory, and more. 

Find a Mentor, Tribe, or Accountabili-buddy.

LFI’sIntros”, which is open to all Left Fielders, is a great way to be paired with another member whose investing interests are similar to yours for a laidback, one-on-one video call. You can meet a new member once a week, every two weeks, or once a month — whatever cadence works for you.

This was HUGE for me! I was so nervous to be paired up with an experienced investor, and even more worried that I would be taking far more than I could give in the conversation. But I committed to an Intro every week and have since gained knowledge, confidence, and mentors. Intros helped me know the LFI community on a first name basis and gave me the confidence to attend LFI’s in-person Meetup in the Left Field in Columbus, Ohio. I highly recommend getting involved!

Join a Sub-Group

Ladies, join us in LFI’s new Women’s League! It’s completely free and is open to all women who subscribe to LFI’s newsletter. It’s an open space for questions and camaraderie. We meet on Zoom every quarter on the second Tuesday of January, April, July, and October from 8:00-9:30pm EST. I’ll see you there! 

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 35ish, connect with other younger folks at LFI’s Next Gen Investors meetings on Zoom! We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month from 8:00-9:00pm EST. 

Email Jim@LeftFieldInvestors.com to get involved. Check out this site to confirm these meeting dates and times and to see the rest of LFI’s schedule.

Attend Conferences!

Meeting in person is the BEST way to create lasting relationships. You’re sure to leave feeling enlightened, energized and inspired. If you can make it to an event, go! You won’t regret it. 😉

My First Deal

A couple of months into my learning journey, a new deal had stirred up some excitement on the forums. I decided to investigate this sponsor and use the deal as a “trial” to find any holes in my analysis process.

While following the forum conversation closely, I reached out to the sponsor for an intro call and asked them to send through any documents for the deal. I received a deal summary, Private Placement Memorandum (PPM), investor commitment form, bank transaction requirements, and copies of past investor reports that I had requested.

After thoroughly assessing the sponsor’s track record and business model, I read through the deal documents one step at a time. Whenever I found myself feeling stuck or confused, I wrote down my questions and what was holding me back so I could ask other investors what they would have done at that point. This process helped fill in any gaps in my learning and put me in a better position to thoroughly analyze a deal. Next time a good deal came through, I would be ready to pull the trigger in a more timely manner. 

Feeling good about this sponsor, I reached out once again, this time to inform Investor Relations that I had my capital ready and would like to be placed on the “early look” list for future deals. As a non-accredited investor, I knew that spaces can be limited in each deal. On the early look list, I’d have the chance to view and commit to the deal before it was shared with the larger mailing list. 

About a month later, an early look email arrived with the sponsor’s next deal. I had a few extra days to review all the documents, ask questions to the sponsor and other investors, fill out the deal analyzer, and post questions in the forum. The deal seemed to fulfill my needs, and I went ahead and committed my investment! Before I knew it, I had my first taste of “mailbox money”. It sure is sweet!

Quick Thoughts on Mindset

Love Being a Beginner

You won’t be a beginner forever – so take advantage of the perks! Ask every question you have, even if it seems like a stupid question. Some veteran investors out there may be wondering the same thing but are too embarrassed to ask. Do everyone a favor, and just ask!

Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Take action – even if you’re fearful. Move forward and course correct along the way. If you’re letting fear stop you at THIS point… just wait until you need to wire your first $50k! 😉 

F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning

Consider Starting Small

Join a tribe. Ask sponsors for a lower investment minimum. Take your time to do thorough due diligence before committing.

Evade Shiny Object Syndrome

Pick ONE asset class and learn as much about it as you can. Once you’ve committed to a deal you feel good about, then consider moving on to the next asset class.

Keep It Simple

Nobody else is going to simplify your life. Know your goals and focus on what will get you there most efficiently so you can use your most valuable resource (your time) to do the things you love.

Enjoy the journey!

There is sure to be ups and downs, but your community is rooting for you!

Nothing on this blog or website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial, and tax advisors regarding any investment.

Katie Viola is a freelance, computer graphics artist for visual effects. A lover of travel, she’s developed a passion for personal finance as a means to fuel her next adventure. Katie lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Joe and cat, Cody. Katie is an active LFI Infielder and helped kick-start LFI’s Women’s League and Next Gen Investors subgroups. When she’s not geeking out on the computer or digging into personal finance books, she can be found rock climbing, hiking, swimming, or cycling. You can contact Katie at ViolaRealEstate314@gmail.com.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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