8 questions with ex-NFL player and real estate entrepreneur Terrence Murphy
Terrence Murphy thought he’d achieved his dream when the Green Bay Packers drafted him as a wide receiver in 2005. But a serious injury in his rookie year forced him to change tracks.
“I’d been at the pinnacle of my profession,” he says. “When the injury happened, I said, ‘God, give me something else I can be passionate about.’ ”
Murphy found real estate entrepreneurship. He started with student rentals but soon branched out, launching a brokerage and companies focused on homebuilding, multifamily properties, new development and more. A serial entrepreneur based in College Station, Texas, he says he’s founded or been a partner in 22 companies and invested in 30 others.
Murphy spoke with Story about how he juggles those ventures and why real estate and professional sports are more alike than you might think.
Story: How did you get started in real estate?
TM: My first introduction to real estate, besides buying my home, was investing passively through a private equity group. I started when I was 21 and three years later, I decided I wanted an active role. My wife and I moved back to College Station, near Texas A&M University. I read 38 books on investing in a year and a half, drew a circle with a one-mile radius around the campus, and tried to buy whatever I could within that circle.
I was focused on student housing at the time. I didn’t have a mentor — I had a lone wolf mentality. I thought, “I have a brain; I’m going to use it.”
A couple years later, I got my real estate license and went to Keller Williams, and then started my own brokerage and grew it to $1 billion in sales in eight years. Expanding in real estate sales helped me fund the acquisition arm of my business. I’m now investing in apartment complexes, doing residential development and expanding my brokerage.
Story: At first glance, the worlds of elite athletics and real estate look pretty different. What have you taken from your experience in football that has helped you in real estate?
TM: I think they’re actually pretty similar. They’re very competitive, and you have to be able to deal with pressure and expectations. In both, you have to know how to handle the ups and downs. Even Michael Jordan missed shots. It’s all about how you bounce back. That’s something sports teaches: You can’t get too high or too low.
Story: A lot of people would be overwhelmed by running one company. How do you stay on top of 22, in addition to your investments?
TM: Time blocking, where you divide your day into blocks of time focused on specific tasks, is a big deal. And I didn’t get to where I am overnight. I started off buying houses. I wasn’t thinking about developing or selling real estate then; I was just trying to learn it. But as I got experience, I saw opportunities to build on what I was doing by getting into a new area within real estate. That led to even more opportunities, and now, 15 years later, it’s added up. We’ve also got a big team — there are about 550 people who work for us directly and indirectly.
Story: Do you have any advice on building a solid team?
TM: Sports and entrepreneurship both force you to learn to communicate with people from different backgrounds and work toward a common goal.
At 22, I was part of a billion-dollar organization — the Green Bay Packers — and I watched the way they ran the organization and learned. I look for people who match my core values. We call it EPIGH: excellence, passion, integrity, growth and hard work.
Story: What’s your top strategy for finding properties?
TM: Building relationships with brokers is key. And when building those relationships, you need to be precise with your criteria — what you’re looking for in a property — and stick to your guns. I love new, modern properties, and typically Class A or luxury buildings. I stay in that lane because those properties work well for me, and the brokers I work with know exactly what I’m looking for.
Story: What’s your top tip for cutting operational costs?
TM: Right now, we’re trying to look for larger multifamily properties with assumable loans. With an assumable loan, the buyer takes over the seller’s loan on the property, which means they keep the seller’s original interest rate. That can be attractive when interest rates are going up.
Story: Tell us about a mistake you learned from.
TM: I didn’t dream big enough. That sounds strange coming from a guy who, at age 5, said he was going to make it to the NFL. But when I started out doing houses, I should have gone right into multifamily, where the opportunities are bigger. I love my houses and still own a lot, but I didn’t even know you could start with multifamily. Even though I’m a big thinker, I could have thought bigger earlier.
In entrepreneurship and real estate, you have to do the hard work and the heart work. The heart work is creating that belief system that lets you think bigger.
Story: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
TM: I want to bring as many people with me on this investing journey as possible. It’s why I started my podcast, Real Estate Entrepreneur with Terrence Murphy, as a free place people can listen and get information, and TM5 Equity Partners, where people can invest in our real estate projects. When they grow, I grow.
By Lauren Zumbach from Story by J.P. Morgan