What is Your Ideal Passive Apartment Investment?

After reviewing the differences between active and passive real estate investing, assessing your current economic condition, ability and risk tolerance level, you’ve decided to passively invest in apartment syndications.

 

Great! You are one step closer to investing in your first deal. So, what’s next?

 

Similar to determining your ideal general investment strategy (i.e. active vs. passive), you need to establish your ideal passive investment. And in order to establish your ideal passive investment, you need to know what your options are first. In particular, you need to learn about the different types of apartment syndications in which you can passively invest your money and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

 

Generally, apartment syndications fall into one of three categories: turnkey, distressed or value add.

 

1 – Turnkey Apartment

 

Turnkey apartments are class A properties that require minimal to no work after acquisition. These properties are fully updated to the current market standards and are highly stabilized with occupancy rates exceeding 95%. Therefore, the turnkey business model is to take over the operations and continue managing the asset in a similar fashion to the previous owners. No renovations. No tenant turnover. Nothing fancy.

 

Of the three apartment syndication strategies, investing in turnkey apartments has the lowest level of risk. The property is fully updated and fully stabilized at acquisition. The risks associated with performing renovations, which include overspending, unexpected capital expenditures, bad contractors, incorrect rental premium assumptions, etc., and turning over a large percentage of tenants are minimized. Additionally, the asset will achieve the projected cash flow from day one, because the revenue pre- and post-acquisition remains the same.

 

The drawbacks of the turnkey apartment syndication strategy are the lower ongoing returns and the lowest upside potential compared to the other two apartment types. Because the property is fully updated and stabilized, there isn’t room to increase the revenue of the property. Therefore, the ongoing returns are and remain in the low to mid-single digits. Additionally, since the value of the asset is calculated using the net operating income and the market cap rate, unless the overall market naturally appreciates, the property value will remain the relatively stable. As a result, there is little to no upside potential at sale. Most likely, you will receive your initial equity back with no profit.

 

2 – Distressed Apartment

 

On the opposite of the end of the spectrum is the distressed apartment. Distressed apartments are class C or D assets that are non-stabilized with occupancy rates below 90% and usually much lower due to a whole slew of reasons including poor operations, tenant issues, outdated interiors, exteriors, common areas and amenities, mismanagement and deferred maintenance. Generally, distressed apartment syndicators will take over and, within a year or two, stabilize the asset by addressing the interior and exterior deterred maintenance, installing a new property management company, finding new tenants, etc. Then, they will either continue their business plan to further increase the apartment’s occupancy levels and/or rental rates or they will sell the property.

 

The major advantage of passively investing in a distressed apartment is the upside potential at sale. Once the asset is stabilized the revenue – and therefore the value – will increase dramatically, resulting in a large distribution at sale.

 

The drawbacks of distressed apartments compared to the other two types are being exposed to the highest level of risk and receiving the lowest ongoing returns. The high upside potential at sale also comes with the risk of losing ALL of your investment. There are a lot of variable to take into account with a distressed apartment, which means there are a lot more things that could go wrong. Additionally, since the asset is not stabilized at acquisition, there will be little to no cash flow – and may even negative cash flow. That means you won’t receive ongoing distributions unless the syndication structure is such that you receive interest on your investment before the sale.

 

3 – Value Add Apartment

 

Lastly, we have value add apartments. Value add apartments are class C or B assets that are stabilized with occupancy rates above 90% and have an opportunity to “add value.” Generally, the value add apartment syndicator will acquire the property, “add value” over the course of 12 to 24 months and sell after five years.

 

“Adding value” means making improvements to the operations and physical property through exterior and interior renovations in order to increase the revenue or decrease expense. These renovations are different than the ones performed on a distressed apartment. Typical ways to add value are updating the unit interiors to achieve higher rental rates, adding or improving upon common amenities to increase revenue and competitiveness like renovating the clubhouse or pool area, adding a dog park, playground, BBQ pit, soccer field, carports or storage lockers and implementing procedures to decrease operational costs like loss-to-lease, bad debt, concessions, payroll, admin, maintenance, marketing, etc.

 

Compared to the other two apartment types, value add apartments have a lower level of risk, the highest ongoing returns and a high upside potential at sale. At acquisition, the property is already stabilized and generating a cash flow. So, at the very least, the property will continue to profit at its current level and your passive investment is preserved. That also means that you will receive an ongoing distribution (typically around 8%, depending on the syndication partnership agreement) during the renovation period. Once the value add projects are completed, the ongoing distribution will increase to the high single digits, low double digits and remain at a similar level until the sale. Additionally, the increase in revenue and decrease in expenses from the value add business plan will increase the overall value of the asset, which means there is the potential for a lump sum distribution at sale.

 

What’s Your Ideal Passive Investment?

 

Your ideal passive investment will be in an apartment type with the benefits and drawbacks that align most with your financial goals.

 

Are you content with tying up your capital for a year or two with minimal to no cash flow and willing to risk losing it all in order to double your investment? Then I would consider passively investing with an apartment syndicator that implements the distressed business plan.

 

Are you more interested in capital preservation and receiving a return that beats the inflation rate? Then I would consider passively investing with an apartment syndicator that purchased turnkey properties.

 

Are you attracted to the prospect of receiving an 8% to 12% cash-on-cash return each year with the prospect of a sizable lump sum profit after five or so years?  Then I would consider passively investing with an apartment syndicator that implements the value add business model.

 

COMMENT BELOW: What is your ideal passive investment – turnkey, distressed or value add? 

 

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When to NOT Work with a Passive Investor on an Apartment Deal

When I first started raising money from investors to purchase apartment communities, as long as the individual was interested in a passive investment and met the accredited qualifications, I accepted their capital without hesitation. And if you are just launching your syndication career, perhaps you’re doing the same. However, as you begin to gain experience and your list of private investors grows, it is beneficial to be aware of the red flags that may indicate the potential for future disputes and, if necessary, to not add or remove the investor from future new investment offering correspondences.

 

To understand these red flags, it is first important to define the ideal syndicator/passive investor relationship. The typical life cycle of an apartment syndication is 5 years. Therefore, when forming a relationship of this length, I want a passive investor who both trusts me as a person and treats me as a partner, as opposed to considering me as their vendor. Based on my experience from hundreds of accredited investor conversations and completing more than ten apartment syndications, I’ve found that there are two main factors that indicate to me that our relationship will not meet these requirements.

 

Red Flag 1 – Contempt

 

A famous study published in 1998 by marriage researcher John Gottman videotaped newlywed couples discussing a controversial topic for 15 minutes with the purpose of measuring how the fought over it. Then, three to six years later, Gottman and his team checked in on these couples’ marital status – were they together or were they divorced? As a result, they determined that they could predict with an 83% accuracy if newlywed couples would divorce. The study found that there are four major emotional reactions that are destructive to marriages and of the four, contempt is the strongest.

 

If there is contempt in a marriage, it will not last. And I believe that the same applies to business relationships.  According to Dictionary.com, contempt is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn.

 

How I identify contempt is based on my initial gut reaction. Do I get the feeling that this person sees me as an equal and as a partner? Or do they look down on me and see me as a vendor? For example, I recently had an email correspondence with a potential investor. He led off the conversation by saying, “My standards are high. My patience for slick marketing is low.” Then, after I provided him some information about my company, including past case studies of the returns I provided to my investors, his reply was, “So what I need to hear is why do some deals with you as opposed to (the company with which he currently invests)?” I felt that this individual’s replies had traces of contempt and politely explained that we wouldn’t be a good fit. If I was earlier on in my career, I would have likely brought this individual on as a partner, but since I already have strong relationships with my current investors, I didn’t find the potential issues worth pursuing the relationship any further.

 

If you are having a conversation with an investor and your gut is telling you that this person holds you in contempt, I would consider passing on the relationship. To set the relationship up for success, only work with investors who treat you as an equal and who want a mutually beneficial partnership.

 

Red Flag 2 – Lots of accusatory questions that don’t convey that they trust me

 

The second red flag I’ve come across is when a potential investor asks a laundry list of questions in an accusatory tone. For example, I have an investor who literally sends me a list of 50 or more questions that are written in an accusatory fashion for every new investment offering. After taking the time to answer each question on multiple deals, they have yet to invest. Because they are asking questions in that manner, regardless of my answer, they will still be suspicious.

 

An important distinction to make here is that I have no issue with my investors sending me a list of questions, no matter how long. In fact, that is encouraged, because the more information I can provide about the deal, the more confidence they will have in the investment. The red flag is when the questions are asked in an accusatory manner. That conveys that they don’t have trust in me and that they’ll likely never invest in a deal. At the end of the day, the key to a successful, long-term relationship is trust, and when my instincts are telling me that there is a lack of trust, I decide to no longer pursue the relationship.

 

Conclusion

 

The two red flags to look for when having conversations with investors is contempt and the asking of a long list of questions in an accusatory tone that conveys that they don’t trust me.

 

Keep in mind that both these factors are highly subjective. Each syndicator and each investor has a different personality and will get along with different types of people. Just because you get the feeling that someone holds you in contempt or asks questions in an accusatory tone does not mean that they are a bad person. However, what it does indicate is that you will have an issue connecting in such a way that builds a relationship that is capable of surviving the course of a syndication deal. So, if either of these red flags arise, be polite, but strongly consider not working with that investor on your apartment deal.

 

If you have had a rocky business relationship in the past that came to an unfortunate end, what did you identify as the cause?

 

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The 3 Secrets to Attract and Keep Your Passive Apartment Investors

Before raising money for my first deal, I thought the primary reason accredited investors would passively invest in my deal would be because of the return. However, after raising $1 million for that deal, I discovered that the return on investment was not the major concern. Because there are other syndication and investment avenues to which an investor can go, offering solid returns cannot be the driving factor.

 

So, if returns aren’t their primary motivation, what is?

 

Since my first deal, I’ve partnered with hundreds of accredited investors on more than ten apartments communities worth nearly $200,000,000. From this experience, I have narrowed down the passive investors’ three primary reasons for investing in an apartment syndication:

 

  • My money is in good hands
  • I will be updated on relevant information on the deal
  • The process is hassle-free

 

Need #1 – Is my money in good hands?

 

My first need is to know that my money is in good hands. First and foremost, that means I want to know that – at the very least – you won’t lose my money. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has two rules for investing: 1) Never lose money. 2) Never forget rule number 1. Therefore, your main focus when managing other people’s money should be capital preservation.

 

Like any investment, there are never guarantees – not for returns or the preservation of capital. So, I need to know that you are proactively mitigating any major risks. The syndicator accomplishes this by adhering to the three principles of apartment investing:

 

  • Don’t buy for appreciation
  • Don’t overleverage
  • Don’t get forced to sell

 

Follow these three principles and I will be confident that you will not only preserve my capital, but maximize my return as well.

 

Along with this, I want to know that my money is in the hands of an experienced syndicator. So, before you’re ready to raise money for your first deal, you must establish a solid educational foundation and have a track record in business and/or real estate. If you are lacking in either or both of these areas, you can make up for your deficiencies by surrounding yourself with a trustworthy, credible team, like a mentor, property management company and broker who have experience in the apartment industry and have successfully completed syndications. For me to invest in your deals, I must be confident in you and your team’s ability to return my capital and provide me with the projected return.

 

I also need to trust you as a person. I need to have a good feeling about you and truly believe that you have my best interests in mind. This trust is established by the length and quality of our relationship and by you demonstrating your expertise through your experience, your team or your thought leadership.

 

With this trust, I will be confident that you will have common sense, make good decisions, conservatively underwrite the deal, perform all the required due diligence before purchasing an apartment and at a minimum, meet the projected returns you outlined.

 

Finally, I want to know that you are a responsive communicator. If there is a problem with the deal, I want you to not only notify me of the issue, but have a proposed solution as well. And if I reach out to you with a question or concern, I expect that same lightning quick response with an answer.

 

Overall, I want to know that my money is in good hands. The syndicator will convey this to me by proactively mitigating the risks, having the relevant experience, building a trusting relationship and being a responsive communicator.

 

Need #2 – Will I be provided with status updates on the deal?

 

Additionally, I want to be provided with ongoing status updates of the project. On a consistent basis, I want a director level – not a CEO or entry-level employee level – update on the deal with supporting data.

 

To accomplish this, the syndicator needs to provide their investors with a monthly email update (I use MailChimp) that includes the following information:

 

  • Distribution details
  • Occupancy and pre-leased occupancy rates
  • Actual rents vs. projected rents
  • (If you are a value add investor) actual rental premium vs. projected rental premiums
  • Capital expenditure updates with pictures of the progress
  • Relevant market and/or submarket updates
  • Any issues, plus your proposed solution
  • Any community engagement events

 

Then, on a quarterly basis, provide me with the profit and loss statement and rent roll so if I want, I can review the operations of the property and dig deeper into the details. My company actually provides monthly distributions – as opposed to quarterly or annual distributions – so our investors are not only provided with updates on a monthly basis, but are paid as well.

 

Need #3 –  Is the process hassle-free?

 

Finally, I want a hassle-free process. The reason I am a passive investor is because I want to park my money in an investment and not have to worry about doing any of the day-to-day operations. I am busy making money with other business endeavors, so I want to minimize my time investment in the deal.

 

After performing my initial due diligence on the deal prior to investing, I want a boring investment with little to no surprises. All I want to do is read the monthly email updates and receive my distributions. So, to effectively provide investor distributions, set up a direct deposit, as opposed to sending checks in the mail, so all I need to do is look at my bank account rather than going to the bank each month to deposit a check.

 

If I do reach out with a concern, I want a quick resolution with minimal back and forth. Therefore, you should proactively address potential concerns in your monthly updates and if an investor has a concern, have a solution in place prior to replying.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, I’ve completed nearly $200,000,000 worth of apartment syndications with hundreds of passive investors, and if you set your business/deals up so your investors answer YES to these 3 questions, you’ll be well on your way to closing more deals:

  • Is my money in good hands?
  • Will I be provided with status updates on the deal?
  • Is the process hassle-free?

 

If you use private money investors for you deals, what have you found to be their top motivations for investing with you and not with another qualified investor?

 

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3 Essential Factors of Diversification in Passive Real Estate Investing

Jeremy Roll, who is currently an investor in more than 70 deals across over $500 million worth of real estate and business assets, is one of many speakers who will be presenting at the 1st annual Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Conference in Denver, CO February 24th to 25th.

In a conversation with Jeremy last year, he provided his Best Ever Advice, which is a sneak preview of the information he will be presenting at the conference.

 

What was Jeremy’s advice? He explains the three essential factors to take into account when approaching diversification in passive real estate investing – geography, asset-class, and operators.

 

Geographic Diversification

 

Some investors like to invest locally, which can be defined as a location that is within an hour or two-hour drive. Others will invest out-of-state, but all in one sub-market. There are thousands of different ways to invest and most of them are effective. However, there is a problem with having all of your properties concentrated in one geographic location: you are much more susceptible to economic, weather, and other geographically related risks.

 

If there is a major earthquake, for example, and you own 10 properties within 3 miles of each other that are all destroyed, you are in trouble. I know this is an extreme example, but it is still a risk. Since earthquakes and similar risks are such a rarity, Jeremy calls them 1% risks.

 

In last months of 2016, Florida was hit by hurricanes, which most likely had a major affect on some real estate. While it might be okay to own real estate in Florida, if you were heavily invested in one Floridian location and one hurricane wiped out half of your properties, again, you are in trouble.

 

Another weather related example – Jeremy invests in six different funds with some very large mobile home park operators, with one being the 5th largest in the world. This operator shared a story about why they have no issue with investing in areas that have tornados, but they avoid hurricane areas. The reasoning was that when a hurricane hits, it typically wipes out a massive territory. As a result, the different governmental agencies and insurance companies are too overwhelmed and can’t handle it, so it takes forever to repair the damage. But for tornadoes, a more isolated area is affected, so FEMA will come in immediately and help. Isolated areas are much more manageable. In this specific situation, these mobile home operators had all of their homes that were damaged or destroyed by a tornado replaced for free. The lesson here is that tornados are manageable and hurricanes are unmanageable.

 

Besides weather related risks, another reason to diversify across different geographical areas is that each has it’s own unique economies and as a result, it’s own unique challenges. If you are invested in a city that relies heavily on a specific employer and they decide to relocate their plant across the country, you are in trouble.

 

There are countless other examples, so all in all, it is important to spread your investments out across different geographical areas.

 

Asset-Class Diversification

 

It is also important to diversify across different asset classes, both from an asset-type and tenant perspective. For example, Jeremy won’t invest in apartments unless they are 100 units of more. For a 100 unit building, when one person leaves his vacancy rates increases by 1%. On the other hand, if you invest in a 4plex and one tenant leaves, your vacancy rate increases by 25%!

 

Diversifying across asset-types is key because certain types perform better in a growing economy while others perform better, or are at least more manageable, during a downturn. For example, office and retail don’t perform as well during a good economy, but can go through a recession relatively well. Specifically, retail with anchor tenants – big grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens. Mobile home and self-storage – can perform even better during a down turn. In 2009, self-storage vacancy only increased by 1%. This is probably due to the increase in demand that came from homeowners who were foreclosed on and needed a place to store all their personal belongings.

 

In the long-term, you want to be as diversified as possible. In doing so, whether we are in a good economy or a bad economy, the cash flow is still going to come in. This is especially important if, like Jeremy, you are dependent on cash flow to live off of.

 

Jeremy does not recommend that you invest in every asset class. For example, he personally doesn’t invest in hotel or industrial space. On average, these asset classes tend to do really well in an upturn or positive economy. However, they tend to have really quick revenue reductions during a downturn. He doesn’t want to be exposed to that volatility.

 

Therefore, it is important that you diversify as much as possible, but make sure that you are comfortable and knowledgeable in all the asset classes you select.

 

Operator Diversification

 

Whenever you invest passively, you are trading control for diversification. You are giving someone else control of the day-to-day operations and you are probably investing with multiple different investors, so your control is minimized. Therefore, if you are going to give up control, you better trade it for diversification. Jeremy finds that there is always a 1% risk with operators, due to the possibility of mismanagement, fraud, a Ponzi Scheme, etc. You are increasing your risk inherently by being a passive investor. To mitigate that risk, diversify across operators. Don’t have too many eggs in one basket.

 

Everyone has their own take on the maximum exposure an investor should have in terms of number of operators. The common number that Jeremy sees is that people don’t like to be exposed to an operator with more than 5% to 10% of their total capital. The same applies to geography and asset-classes as well.

 

It is also important to keep in mind that proper diversification takes a long time, but it is the best way to reduce risk. The more diversified, the better. Jeremy recommends that you shouldn’t invest more than 5% of your capital into an opportunity. This means that your goal should be to diversify across at least 20 different opportunities. At that point, you can determine how many operators you are comfortable with – 1, 3, 5 or more, depending on the person. It is very subjective and depends on what you are comfortable with.

 

Conclusion

Diversification in real estate investing is a must to ensure long-term success and reduce risk. Jeremy Roll diversifies his investments by keeping three essential factors in mind:

  1. Geography
  2. Asset-class
  3. Operators

 

Jeremy believes your ultimate investment goal should work towards investing no more than 5% of your overall capital into a single opportunity and to expose no more than 10% of your capital to a single geography, asset-class, or with a single operator.

 

 

What are some stories of problems you have come across that were a direct result of not being diversified enough?

 

 

Want to learn more about lease-option investing, as well as a wide range of other real estate niches? Attend the 1st Annual Best Ever Conference February 24-25 in Denver, CO. It’s the only real estate investing conference whose content and speakers are curated based on the expressed needs of the audience. Visit www.besteverconference.com to learn more!

 

 

 

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The Importance of Diversification in Passive Real Estate Investing

 

Putting all of your eggs in one basket can be very dangerous in real estate investing. Jeremy Roll, who currently invests in more than 50 different opportunities, is a firm believer in the importance of a diversified investment strategy. In our recent conversation, he explains how he personally approaches diversification by breaking it down into the 3 most essential pieces – geography, asset-class, and operators.

 

Geography Diversification

 

Some investors like to invest locally, somewhere that they can drive too within an hour or two. Others will invest out-of-state, but all in one sub-market. There are thousands of different ways to invest and most of them are perfectly fine. However, the problem with having all of your properties concentrated in one geographic location is that you are much more susceptible to weather and economic related risks.

 

For example, if there is a major earthquake and you own 10 properties within 3 miles of each other that are all destroyed, you are in trouble. While this is extreme, it is still a risk (Jeremy calls these 1% risks).

 

Recently, Florida was hit by hurricanes, which most likely had a major affect on some real estate. While it might be okay to own real estate in Florida, if you were heavily invested in one Floridian location and one hurricane wiped of half of your properties, again, you are in trouble.

 

Another weather related example – Jeremy invests in 6 different funds with some very large mobile home park operators, with one being the 5th largest in the world. This operator shared a story about why they have no qualms with investing in areas that have tornados, but they avoid hurricane areas. The reasoning was that when a hurricane hits, it typically wipes out a massive territory. As a result, the different governmental agencies and insurance companies are too overwhelmed and can’t handle it, so it takes forever to repair the damage. Whereas for tornadoes, a more isolated area is affected, so FEMA will come in immediately and help. Isolated areas are much more manageable. In this specific situation, these mobile home operators had all of their homes replaced for free. The lesson here is that tornados are manageable and hurricanes are unmanageable.

 

Asides from weather related risks, another reason to diversify across different geographical areas is that each has it’s own economies and applicable challenges. If you are invested in a city that relies heavily on a specific employer, if they decide to relocate their plant across the country, you are in trouble. There are countless other examples, so all in all, it is important to spread your investments out across different geographical areas.

 

Asset-Class Diversification

 

It is also important to diversify across different asset classes, both from an asset-type and tenant perspective. For example, Jeremy won’t invest in apartments unless they are 100 units of more. If one person leaves, his vacancy rates increases by 1%. On the opposite end, if you invest in a 4plex and one tenant leaves, your vacancy rate increases by 25%!

 

Diversifying across asset-types is key because some perform better in a growing economy, while others perform better, or are at least more manageable, during a downturn. For example, office and retail don’t perform as well during a good economy, but can go through a recession well. Specifically, retail with anchor tenants – big grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens. Mobile home and self-storage can perform even better during a down turn. In 2009, self-storage vacancy only increased by 1%. This is probably due to the increase in demand that came from homeowners who were foreclosed on and need a place to store all their items.

 

In the long-term, you want to be as diversified as possible. In doing so, if we are in a good economy or a bad economy, the cash flow is still going to come in. This is especially important if, like Jeremy, you are dependent on cash flow to live off of.

 

Jeremy does not recommend that you invest in every asset class. He doesn’t invest in hotel or industrial space, for example. On average, these asset classes tend to do really well in an upturn or positive economy. However, they tend to have really quick revenue reductions during a downturn. He doesn’t want to be exposed to that volatility. Therefore, it is important that you diversify as much as possible, but make sure that you are comfortable in all the asset classes you select.

 

Operator Diversification

 

Whenever you invest passively, you are trading control for diversification. You are giving someone else control of the day-to-day operations and you are probably investing with multiple different investors, so your control is minimized. Therefore, if you are going to give up control, you better trade it for diversification. Jeremy finds that there is always a 1% risk with operators, due to the possibility of mismanagement, fraud, a Ponzi Scheme, etc. You are increasing your risk inherently by being a passive investor. To mitigate that risk, diversify across operators. Don’t have too many eggs in one basket.

 

Everyone has their own take on maximum exposure an investor should have in terms of number of operators. The common number that Jeremy sees is that people don’t like to be exposed to an operator with more than 5% to 10% of their total capital. The same applies to geography and asset-classes as well.

 

It is also important to keep in mind that proper diversification takes a long time, but it is the best way to reduce risk. The more diversified, the better. Jeremy recommends that you shouldn’t invest more than 5% of your capital into an opportunity. This means that your goal should be to diversify across at least 20 different opportunities. At that point, you can determine how many operators you are comfortable with – 1, 3, 5 or more, depending on the person. It is very subjective and depends on what you are comfortable with.

 

 

What are some stories of problems you have come across that were a direct result of not being diversified enough?