From Crisis to Creativity: Real Estate Strategies for the Modern Investor with Neal Bawa


In a recent episode of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast, host Chad Ackerman sits down with Neal Bawa, the self-proclaimed “Mad Scientist of Multifamily,” to discuss the transformative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the real estate investment landscape. As a data-driven real estate expert, Neal shares his insights on the seismic shifts in multifamily investments, office space utilization, and homeownership trends.


Neal emphasizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a true Black Swan event, not just in the short term but also in the mid and long term. Beyond the tragic loss of life, the pandemic has dramatically changed the world in countless ways, particularly within real estate.

One of the most significant changes has been the rise of hybrid work. The pandemic has taught CEOs how to manage their companies remotely, leading to a lasting shift in the way people work, live, and make choices about their housing. This shift has had profound implications for the real estate market, affecting everything from the demand for office space to the affordability of single-family homes.

The pandemic has also accelerated trends that were already underway, such as the migration of people from high-cost coastal cities to more affordable markets in the Sun Belt and the Mountain West. As remote work becomes more prevalent, people are increasingly prioritizing quality of life and cost of living when choosing where to live, leading to a reshuffling of the housing market.

The Office Apocalypse and the Decimation of a Once-Thriving Sector

The rise of remote work has had a devastating impact on the office sector. Once a thriving industry, office real estate has seen a fundamental demand destruction that may take a decade to recover from. With companies requiring 20% less space on average due to increased remote work, office occupancy rates have plummeted, leading to a slow but inevitable apocalypse for the sector.

Neal highlights the shocking examples of office buildings in San Francisco and New York selling for fractions of their pre-pandemic valuations, underscoring the severity of the situation. He points out that even if companies bring their employees back to the office, the reduced space requirements will lead to an oversupply of vacant office space that will take years to absorb.

The cost of converting office buildings into residential units is often prohibitively expensive, making it difficult for developers to justify the investment. As a result, many office buildings may remain vacant for the foreseeable future, dragging down property values and creating a ripple effect throughout the commercial real estate market.

The Affordability Crisis and the Death of the American Dream

Perhaps the most significant change brought about by the pandemic has been the impact on homeownership. With home prices skyrocketing 40-44% in just three and a half years, the dream of homeownership has become unattainable for a vast swath of middle-income Americans.

Neal points out that in most major markets, households earning $115,000 or less can no longer afford to buy a home, effectively relegating millions of Millennial families to perpetual renting. This fundamental shift in the housing market has far-reaching implications for the future of real estate investing.

The affordability crisis is not just a problem for would-be homebuyers; it also presents a challenge for real estate investors looking to provide quality housing at reasonable rents. With construction costs and land prices rising rapidly, it has become increasingly difficult to build affordable housing that generates attractive returns for investors.

The affordability crisis is likely to have long-term consequences for the broader economy. As more people are forced to rent rather than buy, they may have less wealth to pass on to future generations, exacerbating inequality and reducing economic mobility. This, in turn, could lead to increased political instability and social unrest, further complicating the picture for real estate investors.

Data Science and the Search for Affordable Housing Solutions

Neal leverages his expertise in data science to navigate these turbulent waters and identify viable investment opportunities. His company, MultifamilyU, focuses on building affordable townhome communities in carefully selected markets where land, construction costs, property taxes, and insurance are low, while still exhibiting significant growth potential.

By eliminating amenities and focusing on providing quality housing at reasonable rents, Neal and his team are able to deliver attractive returns for investors while addressing the urgent need for affordable housing. This data-driven approach to real estate investing is becoming increasingly important as the market becomes more complex and unpredictable.

Neal’s methodology involves analyzing vast amounts of data on everything from demographic trends to economic indicators to identify markets with the greatest potential for growth and stability. By using data science to inform investment decisions, he is able to minimize risk and maximize returns for his investors.

The Opportunity In the Chaos

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Neal believes that the current market presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for savvy investors. With multifamily properties trading at 25% discounts in high-quality markets, and unemployment at historic lows, the stage is set for investors to capitalize on these unique circumstances.

Neal advises investors to focus on properties with assumable loans, which allow them to benefit from the discounts while avoiding the high interest rates that are driving those discounts. He also highlights the potential of preferred equity investments, which offer attractive returns and downside protection in the current market environment.

Moreover, Neal believes that the current market presents an opportunity for investors to make a positive impact on communities and society as a whole. By investing in affordable housing solutions and supporting the development of thriving communities, investors can generate attractive returns while also making a difference in people’s lives.

Of course, investing in real estate is never without risk, and the current market is no exception. Investors must be prepared to navigate a complex and rapidly changing landscape and to adapt their strategies as new challenges and opportunities arise. However, for those who are willing to put in the work and to take a data-driven approach to investing, the rewards can be substantial.

To learn more about Neal Bawa’s strategies and insights, visit, where you can access a wealth of data, charts, and graphs to help inform your investment decisions. As the Mad Scientist of Multifamily himself advises, take your time, educate yourself, and be prepared to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. With the right approach and the right mindset, real estate investing can be a powerful tool for building wealth, creating value, and making a difference in the world.

Take Your Investing to the Next Level

If you enjoyed Neal’s’ wisdom and stories, the Left Field Investors (LFI) Community offers more great resources to advance your real estate investing education.

Become an LFI “Infielder” to access:

  • Exclusive educational content and investor training programs
  • Off-market investment opportunities from vetted sponsors
  • A network of thousands of like-minded passive investors
  • Virtual and in-person events to engage with experts
  • The support to confidently build your investment portfolio

Whether you are new to passive real estate investing or a seasoned veteran, LFI provides contacts, knowledge, and opportunities.

Join now to take your investing to the next level!

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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