Wells Fargo backs former NFL kicker’s single-family rental firm

Former NFL place kicker Doug Brien’s Mynd Property Management raised roughly $42 million in a funding round led by Wells Fargo & Co. and other investors betting the pandemic won’t slow increasing demand for single-family rentals.

Mynd, which manages rental homes and small apartment buildings for mom-and-pop investors, will use the money to continue building systems that let small landlords operate more efficiently, Brien said in an interview.

That includes property management tools that let tenants view homes, sign leases and pay rent without coming into physical contact with a landlord. The pandemic has also increased the popularity of virtual maintenance, in which Mynd employees walk tenants through household repairs over video calls.

“For anyone who owns real estate these are stressful times,” said Brien. “This is the kind of property management experience that everyone wants.”

For decades, Wall Street ignored rental houses, viewing scattered property portfolios as too difficult to manage. That changed in the aftermath of the U.S. foreclosure crisis, as bargain prices and mobile technology drew institutional investors to the asset class.

Single-family rentals have continued to gain popularity with investors even as the coronavirus set off a massive wave of job losses. Invitation Homes Inc., American Homes 4 Rent and Amherst Holding’s single-family rental business have raised new capital since the coronavirus began to spread across the U.S.

Occupancy rates have increased for single-family rentals owned by real estate investment trusts -- which are easier and more comfortable for quarantining -- while most apartment REITs have seen occupancies fall, according to a recent note by Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jeffrey Langbaum.

Mynd operates in a different corner of the industry than those firms, managing properties owned by small investors instead of acquiring properties for itself. The company manages about 7,500 homes in 16 markets, charging landlords a fee in return for leasing homes and making repairs more efficiently than small investors can on their own.

Brien, who played for the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets during his National Football League career, founded Mynd in 2016 with Colin Wiel. The pair were previously co-founders of Waypoint Homes, an early institutional landlord that became part of Invitation Homes through a series of mergers.