What You Need to Know About Apartment Building Investing

Real estate investors often ask the same question; should I invest in multi-family properties of 4 units or less, or partner with experienced apartment building investors across a range of projects?

They balance the returns on directly investing themselves which would be higher than partnering with a professional investor, with the risk of using the majority of their capital in just one deal.

The answer to this quandary has dramatically changed in the last few years. Prior to regulatory changes, unless you knew the right people (colloquially were a 'member of the right country club'), you were shut out of the option to invest in anything but that which you can personally afford.

Now that the laws have changed, you have access to a vast array of options. 

Here are three important factors to consider:

  1. Liability

 When you invest in a local project using all your savings as the down payment you are risking not only that capital but setting yourself up with liability for considerably more.  Why?  Because you will likely have to guarantee the bank loan you take out which means that if you stop making payments on the loan, the bank will come after you for the debt you owe them.

  1. Expertise

 The most likely way you will make money consistently and for the long run in real estate is to experience some hard knocks.  And if you disagree with me on this, it's because you've not learned that lesson yet.

The real estate market is cyclical.  Values will go down and it is imperative that you prepare for that inevitability.

Here's how you do that.

* Stress test your assumptions by running best, worst, and most likely scenarios on all your projections.

* Keep your debt levels low and always take out debt with long maturity tails, even if the interest rates are higher than shorter term debt, because this will insulate you against being forced to refinance during a downturn.

* Favor properties in areas with higher population density, a growing employment base, and a history of not having declined in value precipitously during the last downturn.

  1. Diversification

Prior to the regulatory changes, you really did have to invest all your savings into one deal to get started.  Now you can invest a smaller amount across a range of projects thanks to the advent of real estate crowdfunding.

You can go online, research both developers and crowdfunding platforms, and invest in exactly the kind of real estate you want to buy, but instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, you can invest a smaller amount in projects in diverse geographical locations, with different demographics, and operated by different professional development companies.

You technically become a shareholder in their development companies which brings with it the following advantages:

* You still collect profits from rents,

* You have zero financial risk beyond the money you invest,

* You have zero management responsibility so you can spend your time focusing on your day job and family,

* If one property under-performs, it could/should be offset by others you invest in, in different locations

* You can invest with [Read: partner with] the best developers in the nation whose projects enjoy the benefits of economies of scale

* All you must do to protect your investment, is do your homework going in by evaluating the developer's due diligence - you don't have to do the due diligence yourself. (Remember, the best way to get out of a bad deal, is to not get into it in the first place).

The Bottom Line

There are two options to investing in real estate; become a developer, or partner with one. This option never existed before regulatory changes permitted developers/sponsors to advertise online. Either way, you must learn what it takes to invest in real estate - the financial terms, the management issues, how to conduct proper due diligence - and the main difference between partnering with or becoming a developer is how you apply the lessons you learn.

IT SHOULD BE NOTED: I am in the process of creating a fund to invest in large value add and buy and hold multifamily properties in California and throughout the United States. Please contact me if you are interested in investing in projects like this.

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