Chris Granger – Maison Title and Seven Oaks Grand Coteau LLC –

Chris Granger, owner of Seven Oaks Grand Coteau LLC, and Maison Title, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss his growing real estate empire. He is an attorney, a married father of five young boys, and a force to be reckoned with!

While Chris worked with an established law firm for 2 1/2 years after graduating from law school, he knew he was never going to work for someone else very long. In 2018 he opened up his own law practice with his wife’s cousin, Benjamin Trant, and then Justin Leger became the third business partner. Business took off.

The logo/painting of Maison Title was derived from an old painting found in a rental home. Leah Graeff, Maison Title’s Marketing and Brand Strategist, redesigned the painting and the logo’s font is based upon one found on an old sweet potato label, the significance of which Chris explains, “Grand Coteau is the sweet potato capital of the world. Justin, Ben and I found an artist who came up with the font.

Only 35 years old, Chris bought his first property, at $70 thousand with 10% down through a bank closing, as his family residence in Grand Coteau while in his third year of law school. It was a perfect starter home for his wife, Meghan, and their young family to live in. When they needed a larger home for their growing family, Chris decided to rent out the Grand Coteau property, which reappraised at $105K after the improvements they had done.

Chris and Meghan Granger pictured with their young family. Photo from Facebook.

“The light bulb went off about leveraging the $35K equity in the home. Let’s leverage what we already have. What if I scale this thing? I could own 25 rental homes. My initial goal was to have 40 by 40! That was my mantra. But it happened quicker than that.” Chris’s whole portfolio is based upon leveraging. “You can’t put down 10 – 20% equity in each house you buy.”

Chris’s portfolio grew to 25 properties quickly. “I’m a big believer in community banks. Being able to walk in and talk to your local baker and explain a deal is invaluable. But they tend to have a tendency to pause you if you grow too fast. When I got to 25 houses I remember being paused. It’s a small circle. The first 25 loans were with two local banks. That lasted two years where I was stalled. So I went head in with my practice with Maison Title.”

Today, Chris Granger owns several hundred residential and commercial properties, which include the former Jefferson Street Pub, now known as The Jefferson, Abacus, the historic site location of Straw Cove Baking Company at 111 Monroe Street, and 160 units in two apartment complexes in Leesville LA. Chris’s thriving real estate title closing agency, Maison Title, is also located in Freetown in the old Petro House on Jefferson Street as well as another branch in Grand Coteau LA.

Chris defines himself as a “pedal to the medal guy,” doing 90% of the work. He admits, “I need help with the last 10%.” He relies on his manager of Seven Oaks Grand Coteau, Casey, to run the property management duties full-time.

“Everything in my mind is about rentable doors. We have a few over 425 doors. 140 single family units.”

When asked about scaling his projects, Chris has learned from experience. “You always need the extra employee before you can afford them. Learning to navigate the cash flow conundrum where you have enough work, but you also have to take a leap of faith to hire them. You always need the help before you can afford them.”

We discussed the current housing market and the affordability issue. “There is a lack of housing in the $150-250K range in our housing market. Anything above $300K we don’t see a lot of in our practice. $200-300K is what we see. There’s a national, local, regional housing shortage in real estate.”

Flood insurance costs are a real issue for rentals. ‘You do well when you have quantity. The goal is to net $200 to $250 per month per unit. Throw on a $1,000 flood insurance policy, which may add $75 per month to your costs for rental units, it eats at your profit. You want to dodge flood zones.”

The vast majority of Chris’s tenants are females with small families. Some tenants have been with him for seven to eight years. Some he ‘inherited’ when he purchased properties, and they have been in the same rental for 25 years. “If you treat them well, they will treat you and your property well.”

Rental assistance programs helped Chris get through the difficulties of COVID. He researched options and helped his tenants. Yet he admits, “I’ve evicted hundreds of people over my career. We’re typically lenient, you have to push me hard.” Chris advises tenants who hit difficulties in coming up with the rent money to communicate with their landlord. “Avoid court fees!”

Chris Granger says, “The Jefferson is the coolest building downtown in my opinion. Located in the 500 block of Jefferson Street, smack downtown, with 5 apartments upstairs and the parking lot next door, it has 15,000 square feet. You can bring in any caterer, floral designer, or DJ. We provide the bar because of the liquor license issue.”
Chris Granger pictured at The Jefferson. Photo by Leslie Westbrook of The Acadiana Advocate. “I’ve always been confident in my ability to make money tomorrow. I’m not money motivated. I’m more motivated in giving my boys a better start than I had. Not saying anything bad about my parents. I’m just motivated to leave more for my boys. There’s enough for all of us to eat. We’ll all do well. Why can’t we just have fun while we’re doing this?”

Chris purchased the historic site of the old Pabst Beer Distributorship at 111 Monroe built in the 1940’s in the La Place neighborhood by downtown Lafayette, which was already renovated to qualify as a health department commercial kitchen. He invested to get Straw Cove Baking Company, owned by partners Dené Carroll and her wife, Morgan Angelle, off the ground in their venture to provide high-quality breads to the Acadiana market. Chris noted that soon Straw Cove will be offering baking classes to the public.

Last year as Discover Lafayette conducted its yearly business recap with the Acadiana Advocate’s Business Editor, Adam Daigle, we both agreed that Chris Granger deserved to be recognized as 2023 Business Catalyst of the Year. Tellling his story is inspirational and we hope a catalyst for other business people to jump in to creating their own destiny.

Chris Granger’s closing remarks to entrepreneurs looking for guidance: “Come up with a plan you believe in. Stick to it. And jump! You won’t get anywhere until you jump. I joke that a lot of what I do is jump out of the airplane and learn to fly on the way down and hope I can fly before I hit the ground. They’re educated jumps. I think that is what holds back 90% of people, they won’t jump.”

Thank you, Chris Granger, for your sharing your entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen. Discover Lafayette wishes all the best to you, your family, and your circle of colleagues!