Real Estate Syndications Vs. Funds – Which One Will Help You Achieve Your Diversification Goals?

A diversified mix of investments is often promoted by financial advisors and gurus as a way to reduce risk and volatility. While this strategy is tried and true, the more diversified you are, the more your portfolio’s returns will resemble the overall performance of the market.  You’re not going to be the next Bitcoin millionaire or see your brokerage account go up by 8,000% because you discovered the next short squeeze opportunity.  Hello GameStop!

When it comes to real estate syndications, diversification is inherently difficult.  Unless you already have millions, high investment minimums can leave you with only a few deals to invest in before your capital runs dry.  You have to ask yourself a few questions prior to hunting for the right sponsor or deal.  What’s more important to you as an investor?  Diversification or a concentrated, calculated risk on a single asset? How about the track record of the operator versus your personal experience investing beside them?  What percentage of your total net worth should be invested passively versus actively?

When you’re considering passively investing in a syndication, you have a few choices in the types of offerings you’ll come across.  The aforementioned questions are paramount to keep top of mind, so you can identify deals that match your investment goals and risk tolerance.

When I began investing as a limited partner in these deals, I looked at my portfolio holistically and asked myself questions about why I was considering this type of investment in the first place.  Step one was simply identifying the type of deals that made sense to complement the other investments in my portfolio.  That is a question only you can answer.  This post is intended to give you a look at the different types of structures you may come across so you can assess what makes sense for you.  As with anything in life, there are always trade-offs.

Single-Asset Syndications

The single-asset model is the most common type of deal in the space.  The sponsor has spoken to you in the past, and you’ve indicated that you’re interested in hearing about the deals they get under contract.  Soon after the purchase agreement is signed, you’ll be hearing from them by way of an offering memorandum introducing you to the property and the opportunity.  There will likely be a webinar to dive deeper into the business plan and to answer any questions the group may have about the property and the plan.

The advantage of these types of deals is you can personally underwrite the asset being promoted.  You can decide if the numbers make sense, if the exit strategy is solid, and if you’re comfortable with the leverage being utilized.

Multi-Asset Syndications

The multi-asset model is very similar to the single-asset syndication.  It simply includes more than one property.  The sponsor may have uncovered a seller that has multiple apartment communities and is looking to retire from the business.  By selling them all to one buyer, they can eliminate a lot of hassle for themselves.  The sponsor potentially can get a better deal than they would have otherwise by providing this convenience to the seller.  The passive investor gains some diversification with more than one property in the offering.

It is likely that the assets are similar in size and property type, but might not be.  If you have a strip mall being sold with an apartment building, ask yourself whether the sponsor has a solid track record in both asset types.

Blind-Pool Funds

These types of structures require a different level of comfort with the sponsor.  In essence, blind pool funds ask the investor to commit capital to the sponsor prior to them identifying one or more assets to purchase.  It could be a single-asset blind pool fund that will close to other investments after the acquisition of a single property.  Or it could be left open for the purchase of additional assets.

In the case of the latter, you pick up some diversification by having more than one property. What you lose is the ability to underwrite the deal yourself.  All you can fall back on is trust that the sponsor is going to make the right decision and invest your money wisely.  Ask yourself to carefully consider how comfortable you are with the sponsor and their track record.  It may be a great deal, but you won’t know until after your funds are committed.

Semi-Blind Pool Funds

These types of funds are similar to blind pool funds but give specifics in the operating agreement about the characteristics of a property that the fund can purchase.  For example, XYZ Fund is seeking 150-250 unit apartment complexes in the Atlanta, Georgia MSA, built between 1995 and 2010, located in B-class neighborhoods, and have light value-add potential.  With this type of structure, you are assured that your money won’t be used to purchase anything outside of these parameters.

Blind and semi-blind pool funds are becoming more prevalent in a competitive marketplace, particularly with multifamily.  Brokers and lenders want to know that a buyer is going to be able to close.  With funds raised ahead of time for the down payment and operational budget, the sponsor has a leg-up on other potential buyers.


I’m invested in both single-asset syndications as well as one semi-blind pool fund.  I prefer the identified asset type of investment because, generally, I want to know what I’m buying.  I certainly want to be comfortable with the sponsor because a bad sponsor can run a good deal into the ground.  However, just like a lender puts more weight on the asset than the borrower in a commercial transaction, I, as the investor, like to underwrite the property.

The fund I’m invested in is with a sponsor who has a decorated track record and team of leaders that have been in the business for decades.  They’ve seen multiple market corrections and have had success operating in various stages of the economic cycle.  The property type the fund was seeking was exactly the exposure I was looking for and in a market I couldn’t access otherwise with that type of concentration.  Generally, I would prefer a REIT over a syndication fund, as a REIT has the advantage of liquidity.

What type of structure are you considering or have already invested in?  What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

Paul Shannon is a full-time active real estate investor, as well as a limited partner in a number of syndications.  Prior to leaving the corporate world, Paul worked for a medical device company, selling capital equipment to surgeons in the operating room.  After completing a few rehabs employing the “BRRRR method”, he saw scalability and more control over how he spent his time, and left to pursue real estate in 2019.  Since then, Paul has completed over a dozen rehabs on both single-family and multifamily properties.  He currently owns over 50 units in Indianapolis and Evansville, IN and is a limited partner in larger apartments and industrial properties across the US. You can connect with him at

Nothing on this 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.

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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