JF2068: Experience Investor Danny Randazzo Shares His View During The Coronavirus
Danny is a Managing Partner at Passiveinvesting.com and Author of Wealth Lessons for Kids. He is also a multi-return guest and can be found on previous episodes JF1447 & JF1684. As you know, the Coronavirus has been impacting several investors and In this episode, Danny goes into how he is handling his business during this pandemic.
Danny Randazzo Real Estate Background:
- Managing Partner at Passiveinvesting.com
- Author of Wealth Lessons for Kids
- Became a millionaire at 29
- Controls over $225M in real estate
- Based in Charleston, SC
- Say hi to him at: https://www.passiveinvesting.com/
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Best Ever Tweet:
“Over the past year, I have really had the opportunity to work “ON” the business instead of “IN” the business.” – Danny Randazzo
Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with a multiple repeat guest, Danny Randazzo. Danny, how are you doing today?
Danny Randazzo: Theo, I am doing great. Thank you so much for having me on. I am excited to be back, and hopefully add some value to the Best Ever listeners.
Theo Hicks: Yes, and I think you’ll be able to add value, because we are going to talk about some of the challenges that Danny is facing during the current Coronavirus pandemic. For context, everyone, we’re recording this on the 29th of April.
Before we get into that, a little bit about Danny’s background. He’s a managing partner at PassiveInvesting.com. He’s the author of Wealth Lessons for Kids. He became a millionaire at age 29, and controls over 225 million dollars in real estate. He is based in South Carolina, and you can say hi to him at PassiveInvesting.com. Great website URL, by the way. Did you just find that right away, or did you have to pay [unintelligible [00:03:58].27] for that URL?
Danny Randazzo: We invested in that URL for an undisclosed sum of money, but it has been tremendously worth it when you think about the brand that you and Joe have really built around Best Ever. For us to have PassiveInvesting.com is a huge piece when we talk about what we do in the multifamily syndication space.
Theo Hicks: Oh yeah, I bet. Before we get into some of the challenges that you’re facing with the Coronavirus, let’s catch up, and you can tell the Best Ever listeners what you’ve been up to the past year. So maybe start and say how much you controlled a year ago, and then how many deals you’ve done, any developments that you’ve done in the past year, and then I can ask some follow-up questions on that.
Danny Randazzo: Perfect. Over the past year – and I’ll add in these first four months or so into 2020 – so between 2019 and today, we’ve acquired 120+ million in multifamily assets across the South-East U.S. If you go back and listen to my first episode of kind of how I got started, I wanna say it was episode 961, but Theo, maybe you can correct me if I’m wrong there… It’s been an incredible journey. Over the past year it’s really been the opportunity to work ON the business, instead of IN the business, if you will.
So a couple of high-level and strategic decisions that we made leading into the beginning of 2019 was to solely focus on multifamily and really tighten in on our scope and hone in on our specific property types and property locations. What that allowed us to do was be looking for really good deals in very specific market and investment criteria in order for us to best serve our investors with great investment opportunities. And having that very specific focus and strict investment criteria has really allowed us to be successful and has carried us through that 2019 period into today, where we really focus on buying assets that are 150 units or greater, built 1990 or newer, in excellent markets like Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina, that are priced between 30 and 60 million dollars.
Having that focus has allowed us to acquire about 120 million in multifamily over the last year, and we’re slated to continue that growth in 2020, and as we continue through, to finishing the year.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing that. So let’s transition into talking about Covid. One thing that I’m curious about — so you do have a business partner, and I know a lot of people when they talk about finding about business partners that complement each other… I was wondering, so during a time like this, how are you and your business partner deciding what’s the best line of action? Maybe tell us what these conversations are like. Does one person have more control over certain aspects of the business right now, or are you both coming to these decisions together? I’m just wondering what that communication is like.
Danny Randazzo: Yeah. In terms of the business itself, we have a full team of people at PassiveInvesting.com. You have myself and two other managing partners, Dan Handford and Brandon Abbott. And then we have a director of design – that’s my wife, Caitlin, who helps with our value-add projects. We have Brian, who is the director of asset management, and he brings many years of experience. He worked with Aimco, overseeing over 175,000 units under management… So he brings a ton of experience to our asset management team. And then we’ve got Melissa, who is our director of marketing, and Ann, who’s our director of investor relations.
One thing that I always hone in on is the value of a team. Investing in large multifamily properties to have a successful business that buys hundreds of millions of dollars of properties, you need to have a strong team around you. So it’s not just two of us, it’s not three of us, it’s a whole team of people… But we, again, spend time investing and working on the business over the year of 2019, and even into today, where we are allocating roles and responsibilities so we’re not falling behind, and we’re always being proactive in 1) managing our current portfolio, and making sure investors are very well informed and up to date as of the current happenings in the economy, and just in the country in general, with the Covid pandemic.
One thing that was really important to us as a group was making sure transparency and information is always shared with anyone who invests alongside of us in these projects… And putting your money to work is a huge commitment. And then if you have an operator or a general partner who may not be sharing or may be giving quarterly updates, or all of a sudden distributions are stopping because of the Covid pandemic, and you don’t know why, that would be a red flag to me. I’d be asking a lot of questions of that operator.
So one thing that we always really strive to do is just overcommunicate things… And I’m pleased to say that in the month of April our portfolio collections average greater than 96% for April income, and we were able to pay out monthly distributions exactly as planned, from our performance.
So it really speaks to the quality of our management teams on-site, at each property, the quality of our resident base, just having very strict renting criteria in terms of qualifying a potential applicant, making sure that their income, their job history and their credit score are solid to live there… And then number three, it’s having a great property, in a great location, where you know people want to live and choose to live.
So having that team absolutely made it such a smoother process going through the Covid scare. I could not imagine being a single shingle, single-person operation at that time, where 1) you’re trying to manage the asset, 2) you’re trying to communicate with investors, 3) maybe you’re doing some marketing to keep your sales funnel or business funnel going – that would just be very overwhelming in a time like Covid… So to really highlight what we’ve done, Theo, we’ve had a great team in place and we’ve been building that team over the years to get to where we are today. I think one tip for the Best Ever listeners – if you are a single operator and you want to own a lot of single-family properties, or you wanna own thousands of multifamily units, you need to have a strong team around you… So I would heavily invest in building that team.
Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. Let’s transition into something else. How have your underwriting standards and your due diligence process changed on the deals that you are looking at, that you are doing, over the past few months? Because obviously, you did 120 million dollars in acquisitions over the past year and 3-4 months, a year and a half… So obviously, you’re still doing deals, so I’m just curious what changes you’ve made to your underwriting process, to your due diligence process during this time when you don’t really know what rents are gonna be a month or two months or three months from now.
Danny Randazzo: Yeah… Two huge things that stand out to me. Number one from an underwriting perspective is your debt service assumptions. Currently, what has happened since the middle of March through today, the volume of lenders in the marketplace lending on multifamily properties like your size that we look at (150+ units) has drastically been reduced. A lot of CMBS, private lenders, bridge lenders, life companies have hit the pause button in their business. These lenders don’t just lend on multifamily assets, but they also lend on hotel projects, retail shopping centers, restaurants, other things like that… So I would imagine they hit pause in their business to see how their collections would be in terms of servicing their current debt on their balance sheet without needing to give out more loans and increase that debt and increase that volume of servicing.
So the debt underwriting assumption is a huge thing right now. It is a challenging time in the multifamily space to do value-add deals with bridge or private lenders. So one thing I would just encourage the Best Ever listeners to be is very cautious on what type of debt is feasible today. And hopefully, over the coming weeks and months, the lenders will stabilize. We are seeing some good indications that people will be getting back into the business, kind of unpausing, now that Covid has kind of settled in and the hysteria has died down a little bit.
So hopefully, some of these lenders come back into the game and force the agency lenders Fannie and Freddie to be a little bit more competitive. Over March and April of 2020 Fannie and Freddie increased their spreads in rates, because they were really the only lenders doing business, and there was a huge demand from buyers looking for new deals, or buyers looking to refi existing properties… So the rates went up.
We are seeing good signs that rates will stabilize, but if you are looking at an 80% occupied property that requires a couple million dollars in cap-ex renovations, I would be very inquisitive about what type of debt you’re gonna get. Is a bridge loan feasible? What sort of commitment can that lender give you? So that would be a huge thing for underwriting, is get your debt right, because the debt will kill the deal before closing, potentially, or it’ll kill the deal after closing, if the debt is not right.
Number two, it’s really that stabilization time period that we’ve updated in our underwriting. So even if we have a very strong property, with very strong occupancy, fundamentals, and job growth and population growth projected, we’ve done some minor adjustments to our underwriting to be even more conservative with the impacts of Covid. People may not move around as much, potentially, so that could impact occupancy. People could be moving back in with relatives, giving their apartment up for a couple of months if they’re laid off or furloughed… So those are just some considerations.
Our investment philosophy is to always be conservative when we’re underwriting a deal. So if we can increase the vacancy rate in which we are expecting the property to be at, it gives us a lot of comfort and cushion in the investment business plan to ensure that we can maintain the occupancy at the property and be able to run and stabilize the asset, given we don’t really know what’s gonna happen with Covid over the coming months.
Theo Hicks: Maybe you could quickly give us an example of what you mean by change in vacancies… So what have you been typically underwriting, and what are you underwriting as vacancy now? I know it’s gonna be very market-specific, so if you can just give us a ballpark…
Danny Randazzo: Yeah, in terms of a ballpark, let’s say if you were historically underwriting deals at 93% occupancy, when you close and maintain, and let’s just say the property has on average maintained a 94%-95% occupancy rate over the last few years, I would adjust and look at the occupancy with maybe a 7% drop. So maybe you’re looking at 85%, 86% occupancy at the property, just to give you a level of comfort… And maybe you underwrite that to only remain for the next six or twelve months… And then we can kind of comfortably say in 6 or 12 months the market should be back to normal, so we’ll then assume a 93% occupancy once we stabilize.
Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. Obviously, you’re director of marketing, so you guys are still actively looking for deals… Over the past 3 months or so, have you seen more owners wanting to sell, less wanting to sell, or has it been the exact same?
Danny Randazzo: I would say over the last two months, really when Covid broke in early March, the deal volume has kind of slowed down, where sellers may not be able to sell if they have huge pre-payment penalties with their in-place debt. Number two, buyers may not be able to buy because the interest rates have gone up, the volume of lenders has gone down… And a lot of investors, even if you think about it, whether you invest with friends and family and private investor money, or if you go with private equity or institutional equity, a lot of those people have kind of just said “We’re gonna pause, we’re gonna see what happens over the next 60-90 days in the marketplace before we make an investment decision.” And while that makes sense in theory, I think there’s still good deals to be done.
We’re in the process of closing an active acquisition right now, which has been a fun learning process for us, going through due diligence with Covid… But I think there’s still really sound investment opportunities out there, and the biggest scare to me is just having money in the stock market when it goes up and down by 20%-30% in a day, which I think would give people a lot of heartburn, potentially.
Theo Hicks: Okay, and what about from your investor relations standpoint, or whoever is responsible for finding new investors? Are you finding more people interested in investing in apartments, or less, or the same?
Danny Randazzo: Yeah, as the stock market continues on this rollercoaster and really scares a lot of people, we’re seeing a reasonable increase in investor interest. A lot of people are looking for stable investments that 1) are a secure place to store your equity, where it’s not gonna go anywhere overnight. You’re investing in a physical, real asset. It’s not a fictitious piece of paper or an internet technology-based thing. This is a real asset. You can go there, you can see it. It’s not gonna go anywhere.
Number two, it’s investing in multifamily for the cashflow. So having great cashflow-producing assets — I always think about Benjamin Graham, the mentor and coach to Warren Buffet, educating about compound interest. So if you have money sitting on the sidelines, not doing anything, you’re really technically losing money, because you have the opportunity cost to invest that money, while it may be at a good rate of return; that would b an opportunity cost to sitting on the sidelines.
So if you sit on the sidelines for one year, where your money is not compounding, it really ruins the future value of that equity when you think about what it will be valued at in 30 years if it compounded at 6% or 7% interest year over year.
So having money and having a safe place to put it, like multifamily, is one reason why I invest. Of course, monthly cashflow is great, and the tax advantages that come with multifamily as opposed to really zero tax advantages coming from active investing or from the stock market – it’s just another plus that kind of is a good indicator for my family and my personal wealth to be invested in these assets.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. And then the last question, I guess more on a personal note – what types of things are you doing to make sure you stay sane, stay emotionally grounded during this Covid time? Because it’s pretty crazy out there. I’m just curious, do you have like a ritual you do every night before you go to bed, or what types of things are you doing just to kind of relax?
Danny Randazzo: I love to read. When I was growing up, through high school, I was never a big fan of reading stories or the required school books… But in high school, I stumbled upon Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and other investing books, and real estate books, and I love to read those books. So I stay pretty in-tune and mentally sharp by just reading more.
I’ve got four books that I’m working on right now, simultaneously. One is a shorter story that is less than a hundred pages, and I am about halfway through it. I’ve got another longer book – it’s the story of Jim Clayton, First a Dream. It’s an excellent kind of autobiography story about his Clayton homes, the mobile home manufacturing company, but they are so much more than that, and I’m loving that book right now. I’m almost finished with it.
And then I’ve got two other books that are on my nightstand. So that’s what I enjoy to do. It keeps me sharp, it keeps me sane, and it gives me great ideas for us to implement at PassiveInvesting.com.
Theo Hicks: Alright, thanks for sharing that, Danny, and thanks for joining us today again, and sharing some of the — I don’t wanna say ‘challenges’, but things you’re going through right now with Covid, and some of the changes you’re making to your business. We talked about your underwriting changes, we’ve talked about marketing, and more investors coming in… Overall, really solid advice.
As Danny mentioned, he’s been on the podcast before. He hit the nail on the head with his first episode number, it was 961. So if you just go to joefairless.com and go in the Search function and you type in Danny Randazzo, he’s got his own full page of content on our website, from all the interviews he’s done… So make sure you definitely check that out, so you can learn more about how he’s gotten to where he is, and then you can learn more about him and his business at passiveinvesting.com.
Danny, thanks for joining us today. Best Ever listeners, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.
Danny Randazzo: Thank you, Theo.
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