February 2, 2017
Joe Fairless

6 Ways to Creatively Get into the Multifamily Syndication Business

Eight months ago, my business partners and I closed on our 4rd syndication deal – a 320-unit. I also documented my lessons learned from my 2nd and 3rd acquisitions (155-unit and 250-unit) here:

Closed on 155-units in Houston, TX … 3 Lessons Learned

Closed on 250-units in Houston, TX … 2 Lessons Learned

Around the time I closed the 320-unit deal and still to this day, many people ask me how they can break into the multifamily syndication business (i.e. raising money and buying apartments with investors). So, I put a list together for anyone who wants to do bigger deals, but doesn’t know hoe to use their special talents (we all have them) to make it happen.

Here is a list of 6 ways to creatively get into the business:

  1. Find an off-market deal
  2. Conservatively underwrite deals
  3. Negotiate terms and get all legal documents in order
  4. Raise capital for deals and be the ongoing point person for capital sources
  5. Secure debt financing (if applicable)
  6. Do property management

Which of these areas appeal to you the most? Which do you want to do? How do you want to spend your time?

If you’re going to be a successful multifamily syndicator then you’ll need to choose your primary area of focus. If you try to do it all, then you’re doing your investors and yourself a disservice. Why?

We all have special talents. We are all wired differently and process information differently. The key is to have a business where you have team members doing what they love to do and what they are good at (surprise, they go hand-and-hand), while you are doing the same.

Yes, I have working knowledge of ALL 6 areas and I recommend you do too. But, you can break in the business by having a specific focus and being strategic about how you leverage that focus.

So, here you go, the 6 ways to break into the apartment syndication biz:

#1 Find an Off-Market Deal, then you can get into the biz by

… Finding an off-market deal and bringing it to an experienced investor who can close on it.

But before you actually look for deals or bring one to an experienced investor, figure out WHO you should bring it to and qualify them to ensure you’re not doing unnecessary work. Your time is valuable.

To qualify them make sure they:

  • Have closed on similar properties that you’ll be looking for
  • Are willing to structure the agreement in a way that meets your goals (more on this below)
  • Are trustworthy and provide references – don’t enter into an agreement lightly. Any partnership has major implications because you’re bringing in investor money.

Should you ask for a one-time fee or equity in the deal? Well, it’s nice to get a fee for finding a deal but don’t you want the long-term benefits of being in a deal? I would. So while you might need to get a fee on the first couple deals because, well, you need to eat and have shelter, the more you do it the more you should transition to being an equity partner for finding the deal. Don’t take a single-family home wholesaler’s approach. Rather, take a buy-and-hold investor’s approach because that is what ultimately sets you up for long-term financial freedom.

Practically speaking, if someone came to me with an off-market deal then I think it’s worth about $25k – $100k depending on some of the details (i.e. size, how good of a deal it really is, etc.).

#2 Conservatively Underwrite Deals, then you can get into the biz by:

… Taking your talents to a group (or person) who is getting tons of deal flow and needs help underwriting deals. My business partner and I get a ton of deal flow so we brought on a couple MBA students at UCLA to help us with the initial underwriting. After they do the initial underwriting we then take it from there and complete the analysis. We pay them $10k once we close on a deal and then there’s long-term potential for them to be in on the deals as we grow our business.

So, if you’re a numbers nerd…ahem, numbers guy/gal then this is a way to break into the industry. I interviewed a 20-year-old who did this and helped close a $2.3M deal. I mean, come one, if a junior in college can do it then why not you??

#3 Negotiate Terms and Get all Legal Docs in Order, then you can get into biz by:

… Getting a law degree. If you’re not an attorney or don’t want to get a law degree then skip to #4.

Seriously, this isn’t the most practical way into the business but if you already have a law degree then it might work. First off, the person responsible for the acquisition is likely the one who negotiates the terms so really all that’s left is legal documents. Paying the cost of legal on syndicated deals makes more financial sense than bringing an attorney in on the deal as a General Partner in most cases. However, perhaps you find a group that has grown to the point where it makes financial sense to have an in-house council. It’s likely even if you’re an attorney that you’ll need to combine #3 with other things you bring to the table in order to make for an appealing partner.

#4 Raise Capital for Deal and Be Ongoing Point Person for Capital Sources, then you can get into the biz by:

… Partnering with someone who has a proven track record in the multifamily syndication business. You bring the money and they bring the deal. If you have a network of high net worth people AND they think of you as a savvy businessperson then this could be your ticket into the business.

Here are some points to guide you along the way:

  • Identify partners that are already doing deals and have a successful track record
  • Get an idea of how much you would make on a past deal of theirs if you raised XYZ amount of money – this gives you some benchmarks for how much you’ll make on future deals when you bring in the money
  • Make sure the partner has money in the deal – otherwise, what do they have to lose if you bring in your money and your investor money and the deal flops? Always have alignment of interests

Remember: if you’re raising money for other people’s deals, you must be on the General Partnership (GP) side. If you are not on the GP side and you are raising money then that’s against the law unless you have a Securities License. Be careful here. Make sure you’re on the GP side if you’re raising money for a deal.

#5 Secure Debt Financing, then you can get into the biz by:

… Being a mortgage broker. If you aren’t a mortgage broker or don’t want to be one then skip to #6.

Even if you are a mortgage broker, similar to #3, you’ll most likely get paid a fee (i.e. commission) instead of being brought on the GP side. That being said, I know of some groups that comprise of mortgage brokers and they get in the deals by putting in their brokerage fee as the equity in the deal.

#6 Do Property Mgmt., then you can get into the biz by:

… Being a property manager. As a property manager you have lots of ways of breaking into the business. Here are some:

  • Networking with local, aspiring investors who want to do deals but don’t have the track record. You can bring your team’s track record of turning deals around and they bring the money for the deal. You have a lot of leverage here because without you or someone like you they couldn’t get approved for debt financing (and likely won’t be able to raise the equity)
  • Work with an experienced group and tell them you’ll exchange your property management fees for being in on their next deal. This could help them sell in the deal to their investors because it shows alignment of interests. You have less leverage than the above scenario but still provide a lot of value.

You could even combine a couple methods and raise money for the deal while also trading your property mgmt. fees for being in the deal. The more money you raise the more equity you get in the deal.

Or, you could raise money for the deal and get equity but not trade in your property mgmt. fees even though you’re managing the deal. Basically you can slice it a lot of different ways. It’s only limited by your creativity and ability to add value to the deal. Ultimately your ownership should be proportionate to the value you add to the deal.

Some other ways:

  • If you’re a broker thenput in your commission to be part of the deal. On my first multifamily deal (a 168-unit) the brokers on the deal put in their commission of $317,500 to become owners with us in the deal. It was a win-win because my group had to bring less money to the closing table and they got to re-invest their commission into something that had major upside.
  • If you have experience in multifamilyinvesting but don’t want to deal with the headaches of finding deals then you could do asset management for other investors.
  • You could also just do your own deal and all aspects of that deal (i.e. find it, get money for it, get financing for it, get right management partners, do asset management) similar to what I did on my first deal (168 unit).

Want to learn more multifamily syndication tips, as well as learn more about 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!

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.

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