Building a Reputation

Published on: October 3, 2014

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Amos Maki, Memphis Daily News

Young real estate investor making his mark.

This week, Lafayette’s Music Room reopened in its old location at Overton Square, bringing live music back to the rejuvenated district.

The famed club, which hosted a wide range of local and nation acts in its original incarnation, was named after the late Lafayette Draper, a Memphis bartender who earned a reputation as one of the best in the business. Draper died in September at the age of 77.

Lafayette’s grandson, Lance Draper, is trying to build a similar reputation in the real estate business. At the young age of 24, Draper has already acquired six rental homes and a 16-unit apartment complex near the Uptown neighborhood.

A self-described penny pincher, Lance Draper hoarded his money and after the housing market crashed was in position to acquire his first property at a tax sale.

“I wasn’t into the clothes or shoes or going out, and I saved every single penny,” Draper said. “I ended up getting the house for the taxes that were owed on it, and when I got that first month’s rent I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Now bitten by the real estate bug, Draper kept scouring the web and other publications for foreclosures or tax sales in good locations, building his real estate empire step by step.

“I worked and saved and kept working my way up,” he said. “I was getting them for less than what they were listed for because there was nobody else wanting them and there were so many to choose from.”

After Draper snapped up five more homes, large out-of-state investors – including hedge funds and real estate investment trusts – poured into the Memphis market, driving up prices for foreclosed or tax sale properties.

“About a year ago there was a big boom with out-of-state investors buying in Memphis, and it drove that market up to where it didn’t make sense to do that anymore,” Draper said. “I started to look for an apartment complex.”

He found what he was looking for at 267 Greenlaw Ave., a 16-unit complex near Uptown and the Pinch District that had gone into foreclosure. Seeing that the apartment complex had recently been remodeled and betting on the continued growth of Downtown and the transformation of the nearby Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops attraction, Draper pounced, acquiring the property for $330,000.

“Just like the first house I got, it was a blessing,” he said. “When you see something and want it, you better hurry up and get it.”

Wiliam Tayloe, president of Financial Federal, said working with the young entrepreneur on the apartment purchase was a revelation.

“Lance has deep Memphis roots, an impressive entrepreneurial vision, and a clear commitment to building and managing a strong portfolio of local properties,” said Tayloe. “He’s been terrific to work with, and we are all eager to continue our relationship on his future projects.”

Draper exudes the confidence of a much older real estate investor and said he wasn’t intimidated by entering the multifamily market or working with a bank to arrange financing.

“I knew I had done enough and achieved enough and my credit is extremely high so I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said.

Draper also said he isn’t worried about investors remaining interested in the home rental market or turning their attention toward the multifamily sector because he believes being a local gives him a distinct advantage.

“By me living here, I’m able to go out and look at the properties myself and decide on the spot whether they’re worth buying, whereas they have to send someone out,” he said. “It’s easier to figure things out and get things done because I live here, and it’s better for the tenants because I can do things a lot faster than they can.”