How a Passive Investor Qualifies an Apartment Syndicator
The syndicator, also referred to as the sponsor or general partner, is an individual or a group of individuals that puts an apartment syndication together. And, this entails a lot of responsibilities.
Their main responsibilities include creating the syndication team, selecting and evaluating a target market, finding a deal, qualifying or disqualifying the deal through underwriting, submitting an offer and negotiating the purchase price and terms.
Once a deal is under contract, their main responsibilities are to manage the due diligence process, confirm the underwriting assumptions, create the business plan, arrange the debt, secure the equity from passive investors and coordinate with the real estate and securities attorney to structure and create the partnership.
Once the deal is closed, they are responsible for the ongoing asset management of the project, which includes implementing the business plan, distributing the returns to the passive investors, communicating updates to the passive investors, visiting the property and frequently analyzing the competition and the market.
Essentially, they are responsible for managing the entire process from start to finish. Because of their heavy involvement in the process, the success or failure of the deal rests mostly on their shoulders. Therefore, rather than investing with the first apartment syndicator you find, you need to qualify them by asking questions.
The Business Plan
One of the first things you want to know is the general business plan they implement. Click here to learn more about the three apartment syndication options. This will segue into the next question, which is what is their past experience with this particular business plan? In particular, you want to know if they have taken a deal full cycle (from acquisition to sale) following this business plan and whether or not they were successful (which is determined by how the projected returns compared to the actual returns distributed to the passive investors).
Alignment of Interests
If the syndicator does not have previous experience implementing the business plan, that is not an automatic disqualifier. However, their lack of experience must be made up for by having a credible team and strong alignment of interests. And for the experienced syndicator with a proven track record of successfully implementing their business plan, having a partnership structure that promotes alignment of interests is the icing on the cake.
There are many other team members that are involved in the syndication process, but the three team members with the most involvement in the deal are the property management company, the real estate broker and – if the syndicator doesn’t have previous apartment experience – a consultant. And each of these team members bring different levels of alignment of interests to the deal. Generally, an experienced property management company results in the most alignment of interests, followed by an experienced syndication consultant or local owner who is active in the apartment industry, followed by an experienced real estate broker.
The syndicator themselves can also promote alignment of interests. For example, one of the common fees the syndicator charges in an ongoing asset management fee. If they put that fee in second position to the preferred return, that promotes alignment of interests. If you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid.
Additionally, they can promote alignment of interests by investing their own capital in the deal, whether that’s is their personal funds, company funds or by allocating a portion or all of their acquisition fee into the deal. By not having money in the deal, the syndicator isn’t exposed to the same level of risks as you are. If the deal performs poorly, they won’t get paid but they also won’t lose any capital either. Whereas, by having their own skin in the game, they are incentivized to maximize returns.
Another way to promote alignment of interest is for the syndicator, or a member of the team, to personally guarantee the loan as a loan guarantor.
Another characteristic of a good syndicator is transparency. To determine the level of transparency, ask them about their ongoing communication process. How often do they send updates on the deal? Will they provide you with financial reports so you can review the property’s operations?
You also want to ask them what the communication process is when you have a question. Will they provide you with their cell phone number or direct email address? And if you do have a question, what will be the turn-around time?
You are trusting the syndicator with your hard-earned capital, so having transparency in regards to what they are doing with your money and how the deal is progressing is a must.
A good question to determine the syndicators track record is to ask them how many of their passive investors have invested in multiple assets. Syndicators who have investors that continue to come back deal after deal is an indication that they have a proven track record of meeting and/or exceeding the projected returns. While the opposite may be true if the syndicator has a poor investor retention rate.
Similarly, ask the syndicator what percentage of their new investors come in the form of referrals. If they have a lot of referrals, that indicates satisfied investors who are motivated to share their success with friends and colleagues.
You can also gauge the reputation and credibility of a syndicator by their online presence. Are they easily found when you perform a Google search? Do they have a website? Do they create content in the form of a podcast or blog? You can learn a lot about a syndicator by performing online research prior to actually speaking with them.
The syndicator’s past experience with the apartment business plan, level of alignment of interests, transparency and credibility are important factors to understand when determining whether or not to passively invest in their deal.
If you are a current passive real estate investor, what do you think? Comment below: what do you look for when qualifying an apartment syndicator?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.