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Real Estate: Is It In A Bubble?

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I originally wrote this article 6 months ago but the same question applies so I’m updating and improving it. The question still applies, is real estate at a bubble? Is it at the top?

I was at the bar for a friend’s going away party and a random guy at the bar started telling me how I needed to buy some new coin. Not Bitcoin, he said, but some other coin he had discovered that is going to make you rich.

In fact, he had just quintupled his money since this morning. I needed to hurry up and get in on the action!

…When the local regular at a small bar in small-town USA has finally started giving investing advice, it’s time to move on to the next big thing. So, I’m done with cryptocurrency (until it collapses).

Mind you, I wrote those words back when Bitcoin was was reaching new highs every day (it’s since lost 90% of it’s value)

But, What About Real Estate?

Ten years ago when I got started in real estate, everyone thought it was a terrible idea.

“If it was so easy everyone would do it.”

“Don’t you think real estate is too risky?”

You know the lines. I heard them all. But now, real estate is the best investment on the planet.

A huge number of friends and also former co-workers of mine have jumped into real estate investing within the last year. People who used to warn me how dangerous real estate was are now telling me real estate is probably the best thing to get into (except cryptos, of course!).

It’s the “best” because their best friend’s, uncle’s, nanny just house-hacked a home and earned $50k and quit being a nanny and is now a full-time house flipper!

Or…someone they knew bought a house 3 months ago and already sold it for $20k profit!

Maybe…their friend’s nephew just became a landlord though he’s 19 and doesn’t really even have a stable job (so he’s technically “retired”, right?).

The Vibe in Real Estate

If you’re getting this feeling or this vibe with any sort of investment, you need to be very cautious. Every time I’ve seen it, it’s been bad.

I turned 18 in 2003. Though I was young, I remember the boom years – I was 16 and everyone was offering me part time work at $10-$12 per hour to do construction work that I had no idea how to do.

When I was 18, 19, and 20, I was remodeling apartments at $10-$15 per hour though I had basically no experience.

Everyone was making money and throwing it around. Then I graduated college in 2008 and the economy collapsed.

It was the same feeling with cryptos. Everyone was excited about them, now I never hear about them anymore.

…and now, everyone I know has become real estate investors.

Real Estate & Economic Fundamentals

When your gut tells you something, you need to pay attention. But, I question myself at the same time.

Housing inventory is chronically low which is forcing housing prices to go up. House construction simply can’t keep pace with demand and the same is true with apartment developments.

Interest rates are dampening demand. If interest rates continue to rise, it could affect the entire economy, but the Fed has signaled it might slow or stop their interest rate increases.

The economy is great, unemployment is rock bottom, real estate prices are increasing. New wealth has been created by the trillions in the last year or two.

Stocks are going through a correction, but stock prices are not an economic indicator. If they get too low it can change people’s perceptions of the economy though and reduce spending. So, we need to pay attention to it.

Wages are growing faster than inflation for the first time in decades.

But, cap rates are amazingly low and property prices are ridiculously high compared to the income being produced. This means people prefer real estate over other investments.

Economists are constantly revising up their estimates for growth.

But… the yield curve inverted, at least on part of the curve, which usually signals an upcoming recession within 1-2 years.

So, which is it? Is real estate at the top or are economic indicators showing strong fundamentals?

Image result for real estate rates

Is it Rational or Irrational Exuberance?

Well, my crystal ball is as clear as yours. No one can predict the future but here’s my take.

I don’t feel that all signs point to bubble yet because there is enough conflicting thoughts to make me believe we aren’t quite there yet. Real estate is cooling down, but a lot of that is due to interest rates. If they don’t continue to rise, then real estate should be more stable or continue to rise.

For now, though, all we can do is to plan and to prepare. Here are your options.

Joining The Herd.

Most people invest a lot and take risks when times are great, but pull way back when times are bad. They dump $50k into stocks then when they drop 20%, they immediately sell to protect them from further losses.

Then once stocks have dropped 40%, they are too scared to reinvest until stocks are back up or higher than where they were before.

People jump into bitcoin when it’s 15,000, ride it to 17,000, then dump it when it gets to 10,000.

This is the herd mentality and is the absolute wrong way to invest.

Back in 2007, they were giving loans to anyone with a pulse but by 2011 it was basically impossible to get financing, even though housing was at rock bottom prices.

When properties could be bought for literally 40 cents on the dollar, nobody was lending and nobody was buying.

Bucking The Herd…

The hardest part of doing the opposite thing is you’ll have some serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

I know people who have made $200k+ in cryptos. FOMO was taking hold of me and I almost I actually invested $1,000 into bitcoin right around $15,500. I played with it for a week or two and sold it, losing roughly $3. That is not a typo.

I did it for fun because investing due to FOMO is the absolute worst reason to invest. A lot of people put a ton of money into it right at the wrong moment.

Instead, I believe people should invest when times are great and invest way more when times are bad. Also, I only want to invest in well known and historically good investments. In a way, it’s like dollar cost averaging.

Using the above example, if the market is hot, I wouldn’t dump all $50k into the market. Instead, I might dump $20k and leave $30k cash. As the market drops, I keep buying more. If it goes up, I buy more too, just more slowly.

In fact, this is almost exactly what I did during the market crash after Lehman Brothers collapsed. I invested my life savings in the beginning of september 2009 and lost half 2 weeks later.

I was somehow able to make all my money back within about 6 months because of dollar cost averaging.

Dollar Cost Averaging Works in Real Estate

The fact is that nobody knows when we will be at the top and nobody knows how hard the market will correct when we get there. It could come in 3 years or it could come tomorrow.

3 years ago I knew a person who sold a lot of their multifamily because they said we are at the top. 3 years later they lost out on a ton of money because it’s still going strong.

So, if you held back your investments today, you could lose 3 more years of a bull market.

My point is, I wouldn’t avoid buying. Just buy a deal or two, buy them right, and focus on adding serious value to keep you above water when the market corrects.

During a correction, use your capital reserves to really get in and buy as many properties as possible with as little money as possible. Don’t focus on adding a lot of value, just focus on getting them cash flowing.

Adding value means typing up capital. Tying up capital means buying fewer properties for huge discounts.

So, save those improvements for when the market is hot and deals are hard to find.

How Are You Planning to Invest in the Next Few Years?

Are you following the herd and diving in, or are you bucking the herd and doing the opposite.

 

This article originally appeared on IdealREI. Follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Real Estate Investing

How To Put That Extra Space In Your Property To Good Use

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A lot of investment properties have something we call bonus space.

It’s space that isn’t quite a bedroom, maybe not really living space, but doesn’t have any one specific use.

So, how do you use this space to create value for your investment property?

Well, that depends…

Can It Become A Bedroom?

A bedroom is almost always going to be the highest value use of any bonus area, so let’s try that first. So, it’s time to look up your local health/building codes to determine the requirements for a bedroom.

The International Residential Code, which most states follow, has several requirements to be considered a bedroom. States and municipalities are free to add on top of this, and some areas don’t use the IRC as their code.

Most places have a square footage requirement and also require a window and a closet. But, different states/municipalities may have different requirements so look them up.

Note About Egresses

Basements and Attics are notoriously bad places to be during a fire. There may be requirements for additional egresses for any living space that is in these two areas. Make sure you know all of the requirements before trying to make a bedroom.

Once you know the requirements, you can determine if a simple project can convert this random bonus space can be used as a bedroom.

For example, if it just needs a larger window, simply hire someone to install it. If you need a closet, get one put in.

It becomes more challenging if you need another egress added to a basement though.

It Can’t Be A Bedroom, Now What?

Most bonus space can’t be used as a bedroom, so don’t feel bad about that. The next thing is to figure out exactly what you can do with the space.

Determine What Kind Of Space You Have

The first step is to figure out exactly what you’re working with and what it can look like when you’re finished.

Regardless if it’s in an attic, basement, porch area, or whatever, it’ll need to be finished with drywall, paint, floors, lights, and heat/ac. Your bonus space probably has some of these already, but often not all.

Keep in Mind The Location

Basements are usually cool and damp, so you may need extra heat during the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer.

Attics are really hot, so you’ll need to add extra air conditioner. Also, you need to make sure your roof is ventilated properly before completely finishing an attic so take that into consideration before adding drywall to the rafters.

Every area will have it’s own unique considerations before starting the project.

Figure Out Its Highest and Best Use

This is really open to interpretation, but you need to figure out it’s best use for other people.

The best thing to do is to look at comparable sales in your market area. Look at what most other people are putting into their properties, then just copy them.

Here are a few common ways people use their bonus space

Den Or Media Room

The most common way people use their extra space is by using it as a second living room, den, or media room. These are all different words for similar things.

Basically, one living room will be a bit more formal for having guests over. The den or media room will be for watching TV or movies mostly.

If you are outfitting a room for this use, it might be beneficial to install speaker wires around the room (this is very cheap), and make sure there is cable and internet hookups.

Game Room

If your investment property already has an area dedicated as a den, you might want to consider outfitting it as a game room.

A Game Room is a room in the house for relaxing or socializing. It is typically furnished with a Pool TablePing Pong TableDart Area, or other recreational amenities.

Storage

A lot of people just need extra space for storage. Having a clean and dry area to toss junk is the lowest value use, but still important. Having this finished space will most likely make it more valuable anyhow.

Advertising Bonus Space

The next step is to advertise your bonus space. You’re either listing this property for sale, or listing it for rent (it’s an investment property, right?).

It’s important to bring attention to the bonus space, especially if it’s not listed in the square footage or other information about the property. This is really common for basements and attics.

In this situation, bring attention to it and make people image what they could use it for, but don’t specifically say it can be used for things that it shouldn’t be used as (such as a bedroom). People will often use the space however they want, including as a bedroom, but you should not encourage this if it’s not a legal bedroom.

So, you’d could potentially say something like:

There is an extra 400 square feet of finished bonus space in the attic that could be a game room for you and your friends, media room for late night movies, or whatever else you can imagine! It is heated, cooled, and has everything you need to enjoy it day and night all year long.

But you’d never want to say something like

There is an extra 300 square feet of finish bonus space in the basement that could be used as a media room, den, game room, or even an extra bedroom when friends come visit.

…assuming the bedroom is not legally a bedroom in your jurisdiction.

Charging For The Space

It’s hard to say what bonus space is worth, but it’s worth something.

The only way to figure it out is to try to sell it or rent it out, and see what the market will give you.

This article originally appeared on IdealREI.  Follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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10 Mistakes Homebuyers Must Avoid At All Costs

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Buying your home can be quite daunting, and if done wrong, it can bring with it enough financial regrets for the homebuyer. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when buying your home.

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Real Estate Investing

How To Make Real Estate Syndication A Success Without Using Your Money

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Have you ever driven around your city and seen all these apartment complexes, shopping plazas, or even office buildings? I always used to think they were all owned by rich billionaires.

…some of them are, but not all.

The reality is that a lot of these large properties are actually owned by regular people like you and me to generate passive income.

But how?

The answer: with real estate syndication.

It’s what I used to recently close a 192 unit deal in San Antonio with my partners.

But what exactly is real estate syndication?

Syndication is a way which multiple real estate investors pool their funds together in order to purchase a property that is more expensive than any of them could have afforded on their own.

Generally, there are two types of partners in these deals: 1) General Partners (GPs) who accept additional risk, put the deal together, and operate the asset 2) Limited Partners (LPs) who have limited risk and invest more passively.

Real estate syndications are an effective way to spread risk. Since each investor can allocate a smaller sum to each deal, they can effectively spread their risk across multiple property types and diversify by geographic region.

Real Estate Syndication Structure

Syndications in real estate are amazingly diverse in their structure so it’s impossible to cover everything. In general, there are four components:

  • Return of investor capital – Limited partners should always get paid back first, and this ensures they get paid first
  • The preferred return – Not all deals have a preferred return, but when they do this is where it pays out. Investors get the first portion of the deal before the general partners.
  • The catch-up – Many deals don’t have a catch-up tier but this is where the sponsor will get 100% of the profits after the preferred return until the predetermined split is met.
  • Carried interest – profits are split based on the agreed amount (such as 80/20 or 70/30)

Let’s break it down further…

Real Estate Syndication

What Is A Preferred Return In A Real Estate Syndicate?

According to Mark Kenney over at ThinkMultifamily, a preferred return is “a return that investors received BEFORE the general partners receive a return.” In essence, after the investors receive their initial capital back, they received a preferred rate of return before the general partners get any payout at all.

Mark, an investor and real estate coach who owns over 2,000 doors in Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas, says that he doesn’t like to use a preferred return but has in the past on deals that didn’t expect any distributions for 12 or 18 months.

The preferred return would accrue and give incentive for people to invest in the deal.

Andrew Campbell, the co-founder of Wildhorn Capital, a multifamily operator based in Austin, Texas has a different opinion. He said he likes to have an 8% preferred return for the majority of his 450 door portfolio.

It “gives some certainty to investors about their overall returns. Plus, 8% also happens to beat the historical stock market return of 7%.”

What Is A Waterfall In A Real Estate Syndication?

The waterfall refers to the overall distribution of funds and tiers that were mentioned above, but it is often referred to as how profits are split after the preferred return is met. Andrew Campbell explains it perfectly:

Profits generated above any preferred returns are generally split between investors (Limited Partners) and deal sponsors (General Partners). In our case, above the 8% pref we split profits 70% to Limited Partners and 30% to General Partners.

Some deals and sponsors will have additional “waterfalls” where at 18% IRR (for example) the split would go to 50/50. The general idea is that the higher the returns are to investors, the more the sponsors make, and everyone is happy.

The downside of multiple waterfalls is that sponsors can sometimes be incentivized to return investor capital early (to boost the IRR) and trigger these waterfalls.That can sometimes put unnecessary risk on the asset if they are being to aggressive.”

Kenny Wolfe, the founder of Wolfe Investments who has been involved in over $91M in real estate transactions doesn’t like the complexity of the waterfall structure many syndicators use.

“We have steered clear of preferred returns mostly because those are usually accompanied with up-front fees charged to investors. Our investment structures are tied to the performance of the investment, and not just closing deals like the typical preferred return strategy.”

He continues,

“If we make our investors money, then we’re rewarded. If we don’t then we aren’t rewarded.”

I originally didn’t plan to dive into the fee structure at all, but since Kenny brought up some great points, I think I’ll dive into the fees and how some different structures affect the incentives and performance of deals.

The Fees When Syndicating Real Estate

There are a lot of different types of fees used in syndication. Some are more common than others but all have their pros/cons. Here are the most common ones

Acquisition Fee

I’ve seen this anywhere from 0 to 5 points with 2 being the most common. Acquisition fees in a syndication are really common and most have them, but not all.

Syndicators are running a business and that has costs. Acquisition fees help pay for the operating costs, staff, flights, hotels, diligence, and other costs that are needed to run the business.

On the other hand, acquisition fees can be enormous on large deals and can drive some deal sponsors to be short-sighted and focus on closing deals rather than operating deals profitably.

Think about it, a $10M deal with 2 point acquisition fee is $200,000. That adds up fast! You can see how some sponsors will lose track of buying good deals and focus on just closing deals, regardless of how good they are.

Asset Management Fee

This generally ranges from 1-3% of gross rent revenue. This may or may not go to the deal sponsor and it goes to cover the cost of managing the asset and management team that was hired.

Construction Fee

Since the syndicator only gets paid when the asset is cash flowing, there isn’t much incentive to take on difficult projects. That’s where the construction fee comes in. If there is a major rehab project a fee can be imposed to compensate the project manager while the asset isn’t producing income.

It can vary but is often 1-2% of the construction cost.

Aligning Interests

There are a lot of competing interests in a deal and it’s difficult to align everyone 100% of the time – that’s why trust must be built with anyone that you’re investing with.

But, a few major points to consider are how all the fees and the preferred return and waterfall all fit together.

Deals with high preferred returns and high fees create incentives for the sponsor to find and close deals, but not a lot of incentive to maximize cash flow. As Andrew pointed out, deals with huge benefits to the sponsor at certain levels can cause them to sell early to bump the IRR artificially and trigger that waterfall distribution.

But, deals that compensate the sponsor more will create more incentive to produce high returns.

That’s why there are so many different ways to structure deals! Every sponsor and investor pool is different so they can create deals that work for everyone.

Structuring a Syndication Deal – Example

Similar to how Andrew structures deals, let’s say that in this deal there will be an 8% preferred return, 70/30 split thereafter, and have a 2 point acquisition fee and 2 point asset management fee.

The limited partners will get 70% of the returns after the 8% pref and the sponsor will get the other 30%. The sponsor will get 2 points up front and 2 percent of the gross revenue.

Example 2 – Syndication Structure

Kenny, on the other hand, keeps it simple. He might charge an 80/20 split with no acquisition fee, no waterfall, and no preferred return. The asset management fee is 2% as well in this example.

So, the limited partners get 80% of all the profits and the general partner gets 20%. If it does well everyone does well and if it does poorly everyone does poorly. There are very limited fees except for the asset management fee.

Example 3 – Hybrid Structure

Mark kind of does it a third way. He said he generally does the 80/20 split, but he does charge an acquisition fee and asset management fee but rarely does a preferred return.

The acquisition fee is more similar to Andrew but his split is more similar to Kenny.

It’s interesting to see how 3 different real estate syndicators have three entirely different ways to structure their deals.

How To Find Real Estate Deals to Syndicate?

These are large deals and you don’t typically see them on the MLS, so how exactly do you find deals for a syndication?

Well, three different deal sponsors had three different answers:

“Now that we’re established as a solid buyer we get off-market deals across the US.  We look at the on-market deals as well. These days the off-market deals have been much more attractive.”– Kenny Wolfe

Andrew Campbell appears to have a more holistic view for finding deals.

“It’s a full-time job, and it all comes back to relationships. Meeting and networking with brokers, talking to owners, title agents, insurance providers, property managers. Leads can come from anywhere, and in this market, you want to make sure you can see as many properties as possible, and the earlier and more off-market/limited market they are the better.”

Mark Kenney has seemed to be extremely successful working directly with commercial real estate brokers.

“We generally work through brokers to finds deals.”

What About LoopNet for Commercial Real Estate Syndication?

I’ve known about LoopNet for a while, so I was curious about it. Kenney put it simply though:

“Loopnet is where deals go to die.”

But, David Eldridge of NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs, a commercial brokerage firm in Worcester, Massachusetts, said,

“Loopnet is far from dead. We do a ton of volume on it and use it almost exclusively for smaller listings.”

How Do You Find Commercial Brokers and Get Them to Take You Seriously?

Commercial brokers are dealing with a lot of big players in the market, and it can be difficult to get them to take you seriously if you are a new player.

Mark pointed out that “a market generally only has a few major names. The top 2 or 3 people have access to virtually all the deals, so you just need to identify them.”

He continued, “it’s not hard to get yourself onto their email list, but it can be more difficult to get people to take your offers seriously. It’s important to have some experience in the field and if you don’t, then partner up with someone who does have the experience.”

In the end, money talks and the highest offer usually wins. So, you can make up for experience with higher offers.

The Cost To Syndicate A Real Estate Deal

Now that we’ve got past the “what is a syndication in real estate” and the “how to syndicate in real estate” part of the article, we can get into the costs and money aspect.

The first logical question is about the cost of a syndication.

There are several major fixed cost items that every syndication requires, including – SEC attorney, earnest money deposit, diligence, private placement memorandum, loan application fees, and more.

So, let’s break them down. As some fees are percentage based, I’m going to create a hypothetical $2,000,000 deal.

  • Attorney for Contract – $3,000
  • SEC Attorney for PPM – $12,000
  • EMD – 1% – $40,000
  • Diligence – $25-$50 per door – $2,000
  • Loan Application – 1% – $20,000
  • Other Financing Costs – 0.5% – 1% – $20,000

Total Costs – $97,000 to get the deal done, of which $40,000 goes toward the purchase.

So the total fixed costs are $57,000 or 2.85% of the total deal price. As you can see, this is not cheap!

The syndicator has to front all the money and if the deal doesn’t close most of that money can be lost. So, you can see one reason why syndicators are compensated pretty well.

How Big Do Syndication Deals Need To Be?

We are talking some pretty big numbers here overall. Realistically though, how big or small does the syndication deal need to be in order for it to make sense?

Universally, all of the deal sponsors wanted to do larger rather than smaller deals. Both Mark and Kenny said they want deals over 80 units which allows for full-time on-site property management. Andrew prefers to look at it as a dollar figure and prefers to do deals over $8 million to keep the fixed costs as a small percent of the total costs.

How Do You Find Investors?

Most people reading this are probably wondering how you can find people to invest so much money. Most people can save up $50-100k, but you are talking about raising hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars for a deal. How?

Andrew says it’s a “second full-time job” which comes back to relationships and marketing. He does at least 5 sit-down meetings a week to grow those relationships.

Kenny is so well established that most of his new investors come from referrals though he also does a meetup, podcasts, and general outreach.

Example Syndication Deal

You might be wondering how much a syndicator can actually earn from one of these deals. So, I put together this example based on the knowledge I gained.

Let’s assume we found a property somewhere in Texas with a 6.5% capitalization rate. It’s about 70 units and is selling for $60,000 per unit. That’s $4.2M total.

A 6.5 cap rate means the property has a net operating income of about $273,000 per year before finance costs.

With about $875,000 as a down payment, that’s about $190,000/year in finance costs (I’m rounding).

So the cash flow is about $83,000/year.

Of course some of that goes toward principal, and eventually, the deal will be sold and that will get distributed back to the investors. For now, though, let’s just focus on cash flow and not the entire return.

What The General And Limited Partners Earn In A Syndication

I’m going to keep the numbers super simple so I can do it all in my head. Let’s take the 1% asset management fee out of the gross rents. We don’t have a number for gross rent (only NOI). Let’s say it’s $8,000. If you were the asset manager, great you get to pocket that. If not, someone else does.

The rental income is now $75,000.

Of that cash flow, let’s say the syndicator is doing a 90/10 split and will earn 10%.

And let’s say he also put in about $100,000 into the deal, they would have a total equity of 21.4% and would get about $16,050 in cash flow. That’s about a 16% cash on cash return for the principal (excluding the asset management fee). Don’t forget, they earn the same returns as other LPs on the cash they invest, and then get their split just for doing the deal.

Realistically, this example doesn’t include any growth in value and is a very simple example.

Now You Know The Basics

…and it’s time to download your deal calculator to help you start analyzing your next deal.

This article originally appeared on IdealREI. Follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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