September 20, 2022

JF2938: The Case for Nice & Boring LP Investments ft. Andrew Rosenberg

Andrew Rosenberg is a passive investor who works full-time for his family business, Ralph Rosenberg Court Reporters. He first became "hooked" on investments after buying his first stock at age 13. Years later, Andrew and his father decided to begin investing their extra money in real estate. They started out with single-family homes but made the switch to syndications in order to scale more quickly. 


Today, Andrew is an LP of 3,400 units, along with small investments in office, farmland, and ATM syndications. In this episode, he discusses what he looks for when evaluating syndications, the one thing he considers to be a deal breaker, and why there’s no such thing as a truly passive investment.



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Ash Patel: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Ash Patel and I'm with today's guest, Andrew Rosenberg. Andrew is joining us from Honolulu, Hawaii. He is a passive investor who works full-time as a business owner. Andrew also invests in multifamily, office, farmland and ATM syndications. Andrew, thank you for joining us, and how are you today?

Andrew Rosenberg: Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much for having me, Ash.

Ash Patel: Andrew, it's our pleasure. Before we get started, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little more about your background and what you're focused on now?

Andrew Rosenberg: Oh, okay. I actually have an accounting background academically, and I've been investing for a very long time. At 13 I bought my first stock; it was a gift from relatives. They pooled their money together, and the condition to the gift was "You have to buy a stock", because they believed very strongly in education. And they believed "You can read all you want, unless you've got money behind it, you're not going to really follow and learn." So I bought my first stock, it was Jam Smuckers, the jam maker and coffee maker, and it went from 60 to 80, and I was hooked. So I loved investments all the way through, from 13 years old to graduating college. I worked temporarily in corporate finance, and corporate was just so not for me. I came back home and worked in the family business, which had nothing to do with my prior professional or academic teachings, which was great, because with entrepreneurship - you do everything when you're an entrepreneur. I was lucky to work with my father, who had started the business.

Over the years, we realized, "Geez, you know, whatever extra money we make--" Sorry, it's my dog. "...we better reinvest it." Because you just never know with a business; industries change, and markets change... So real estate was the next best thing. So we got into real estate, and started doing single families, and built up a respectable portfolio. But you really can't scale them; they start becoming a pain, and I realized I've gotta find a better way to do this.

I met [unintelligible 00:03:23.24] he was a syndicator, and we started just doing a little bit of his deals, and realized, "Wait, this is really what I've got to be doing." So we're pruning down the single families, and any new money would go to multifamily syndications.

Ash Patel: Alright, so you started out investing in stocks. What would have happened if that stock went down instead of up?

Andrew Rosenberg: I don't know, that's a good question. No one's ever asked me that before. But yeah, that's an interesting question. I guess I'm lucky that it went up the first time.

Ash Patel: Okay, so let's take the past couple cycles. You've invested in the stock market, you've seen the ups and downs... At what point did you start investing in single-family houses? What year was that?

Andrew Rosenberg: This would be about 2010-2012. So post GFC...

Ash Patel: Okay, so you've seen cycles in the stock market; you have not really seen cycles in the real estate market yet.

Andrew Rosenberg: Well, I remember the GFC pretty well...

Ash Patel: GFC is the Great--

Andrew Rosenberg: Sorry, the Global Financial Crisis.

Ash Patel: Oh, okay.

Andrew Rosenberg: There wasn't an asset that didn't get affected by the GFC. You saw in your own neighborhood if you were a homeowner, you saw prices get rocked. If you didn't live under a rock, you saw it in every newspaper headline.

Ash Patel: How did you weather the stock market cycles? Do you just hold, or did you try to time the market?

Andrew Rosenberg: I've never tried to time the market. It was always whatever was in there, was stuff that can sit. I never stretched the liquidity. You always have your six months of reserves for living expenses. But anything beyond that, if it goes up, it goes up. If it goes down, it goes down. It's supposed to be long horizon money.

Ash Patel: And do you view real estate the same way?

Andrew Rosenberg: Oh, even more so, especially because of the tax benefits. And as long as your cash-flowing, there's really nothing to fear; prices go up, prices go down... Nothing's going to change my life, really.

Ash Patel: Andrew, let me play devil's advocate for a second now... Stock market timing is a little bit difficult, because it can move very quickly, it can be very volatile, and it's very difficult to time. With the current state of the economy, we know the Fed is increasing rates. We know there's not as many buyers as there was six months ago, and we can almost see the writing on the wall. Why not sell some of the assets and go back? If the 2010 prices come back to the market, why not trying to buy low again?

Andrew Rosenberg: I'm humble enough not to think I can time the market, one. And to be honest, I enjoy those rent checks coming in. I enjoy the depreciation. And the whole point for me for investing is to have the money growing, and run my day job; where I make money is my day job. That's my biggest source of making money. The real estate stocks, bonds - that's all nice, and it's to obviously outpace inflation, or at a minimum, the bank account... But I've never really looked at it as something I'd want to time. If there's a good deal, it's always a good time to buy a good deal. For me, it just means any new investments, the underwriting has to be harder, basically. The deal has to be even more of a slam dunk right now.

Ash Patel: You're transitioning from your own single families into other people's syndications... What are the things that you look for when you evaluate somebody's syndication?

Andrew Rosenberg: I know it's a canned answer, because everybody always says that it's the team... But for me, I'm not trying to swing the homerun. So I really am looking for consistent players that know how to mitigate risks, and have a substantial deal flow. So I'm biased, and I know I'm biased, towards experienced operators that have done a number of deals, have gone full cycle. And the kind of guys that when you ask them the nitty-gritty questions, they don't get flustered. They have the answers. Obviously, you don't ask the list of 21 or 22 standard questions to ask a syndicator. You don't ask them every single one. You asked them three or four, and as long as you get good answers on those and the team is solid, you like the market... [unintelligible 00:07:34.29] there's so many good operators. That's the other thing. There's only so much money, and there's a lot of good operators out there.

Ash Patel: Alright, so there's a lot of good operators... How do you sift through them and pick the right one?

Andrew Rosenberg: For me, the big kicker right now - and I look at a good number of presentations. The one that gets me frankly upset is if I've watched the webinar, or you've sent me the pitch deck of PowerPoint, if you don't mention the debt structure, I'm probably out. That's just getting me pissed off, I'll be honest. if it's someone I know, or the capital raiser was someone I know, then I'll say "Okay, here's the list of questions of things you guys didn't really address in the presentation", and depending on how those are answered, maybe I would invest then.

I've had it told to me that basically for a long time because the market was so hot all that a syndicator really had to do was pitch a hot city like Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, you name it, throw a bunch of IRRs and cash-on-cashes and a bunch of big returns, and they could get a lot of money. They didn't need to go over asset management. They didn't need to go over who's going to be the proper dementia. Are they a good fit? They didn't have to go over what is the value. They just threw out the word value-add, and investor money would follow. They didn't have "How did you come up with these comps?" The little nitty-gritty questions. They've been through a few years where they show up some really pretty drone footage and a couple pretty PowerPoint slides with who the employers are in the area, promised a 19% IRR, and checks would flood in. So that doesn't really work for me...

Ash Patel: You mentioned you want in-depth knowledge on the debt structure. Explain that to me, please.

Andrew Rosenberg: Okay. Well, as you mentioned yourself, we're going into a recession - because we'll get into that; such an incompetently managed Federal Reserve. We know our interest rates are volatile. I'm not gonna say they're going up, I'm not going to say they're going down. But we've never had a period in a while with such uncertainty. Uncertainty is a real risk. It's something to be calculated for. And again, I'm not the homerun hitter. I just want a good team, knows what they're doing, dot all the i's, cross all the t's... I believe if I have those guys, and I have a portfolio of those people, I'm going to make money; whether it's 15%, I don't care about that. I just want to make money. I'm going to make a lot more money than I did in single family, make a lot more money consistently in the stock market, and way more than the bank account.

So for me, right now, the only new investments that I'm going to consider are going to have one of three things - it's either going to have fixed rate debt, it's going to have a rate cap, or it's going to be where you assumed the latter portion of somebody's 10-year fixed loan. So one deal that I did invest in, they took the last seven years of a fixed 4.35% loan. And in that presentation, the very first slide in their presentation was about the debt structure. And their point which I liked was investors look at a lot, a lot of presentations, and it's very formulaic, the same pattern, everyone uses the same template, essentially. And he was saying, "Look, what separates my deal from everybody else - one of the big factors", not the only, but one of the big factors was the debt. Not very common that you see a deal as an investor with seven years of fixed rates. So he's got seven years to get the property up to shape. So all those repairs, all the tenant kick outs, create the new sign, build the pool, seal the driveway - even if we get into bad times, it gives them seven years to get a fix. Most deals are trying to get out in three to five years. So that gives me a little higher margin of error.

Similarly, there was a construction deal we did, where they're buying the hotel, they're going to convert it to residential. They have fixed loan debt; it was from a small local bank, and it's because they have a relationship. These guys have done this before. And because they believe so strongly in the deal, it's a recourse debt; recourse being - I know you know, but for the audience... The debt goes to them personally. It's not just attached to the property.

So you're looking at the deal and there's lots of good things about the deal, but when you realize the general partners have very substantial amounts of capital in the deal, their little local bank believed in them because they've done it before, and the debt's fixed, it's a higher degree of certainty in that project than other ones that I look at that have variable rates. That just wouldn't work for me.

And then the last deal that we did recently was a deal that's very, very, very attractive on the purchase price. So they bought the rate cap, it could still cash flow well, even with the rate cap. So for me, there's all these deals out there, all these great operators... I really just need to not have interest rate volatility as a risk. I already have operational risk, or I have jurisdictional risk, or the federal government coming up with another eviction moratorium... I have all these risks out there. If we can strip out the interest rate risk as much as possible, now we can play.

Ash Patel: Stripping out that risk - is that five years typically, or...?

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah, five years is enough. Even the seven-year one was nice, because this operator's done it before and he's never needed seven years. But I kind of liked his point of, "We've never faced this much uncertainty. Who knows what the federal government will do in the next five years? I don't know... Who knows what the economy is going to be like?" I really liked the idea that, God forbid, we've got to extend out this value-add project a little longer, and still cashflow, I'm okay; send me my distribution checks. I can wait for the refinance, or I can wait to sell. What I don't want to get is a phone call saying, "Hey, Andy, the loan's coming up, and banks are making loans again", like during the GFC. You remember the GFC, there was people calling the banks with high 700 credit scores, and "No, no loan for you." Like, what are you talking about?

Ash Patel: Andrew, how important are distributions? And are you okay with delayed distributions? Do you want your monthly check?

Andrew Rosenberg: Not really, to be honest. The distributions are nice, and I like it. Everyone likes to check on their phone or go on their computer and see it flowing into your bank account. Where you make the money is the exit, whether it's the refinance, or the sale. That's really where your money's going to be made. The one thing I like about the distribution is that it keeps the operator on their toes a little bit, because there's always this pressure of, "We've got to cashflow and we've got to pay our investors", so it encourages them to cut costs or find positive ways to come up with new revenue streams, whether it's trash pickup, changing the internet contract, or pet fees, that kind of thing.

I like it in the sense that it keeps the operator on their toes. But I've invested in land development deals, and you're not going to get a distribution on land development. I'm invested in farmland, like you said; that one, I'm probably not seeing any distribution until sale. It just depends where in the portfolio you are. If the pitch was, "This is a yield play", then yeah, you'd better be making your distribution payments. But if we're doing a heavy value-add lift - yeah, I'm not expecting distributions for a while. So my portfolio has different elements of stable, boring, easy, and more risky projects.

Break: [00:14:56.23] to [00:16:55.00]

Ash Patel: You're the ideal versatile investor, because there's some investors that literally want a monthly distribution; nothing less will suffice. And others that -- like me, monthly distribution for me, it's just an accounting headache. I'd rather just get the money at the end. And then when you're looking at syndicators, do you evaluate their exit strategy, their exit cap rate, how much they're banking on the property appreciating?

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah, that's a tough one. Obviously, anybody who has an exit cap rate lower than the entry cap rate is immediately disqualified, and frankly, has to leave the Rolodex... Which I've actually seen.

Ash Patel: I've seen that, too.

Andrew Rosenberg: I was baffled. Again. I'd rather you not advertise these crazy high IRRs. I'd rather you tell me boring, [unintelligible 00:17:42.15] IRRs. Show me really conservative -- like, we put the exit cap rate a full hundred basis points higher than that of our entry. We've got a big reserve, and we're still making this IRR that's very acceptable. Plus, we didn't bake in these numbers for the optionality. The upside of whether it's trash pickup, storage units, valet parking or reserved parking... We love optionality; give me ideas of "There's extra ways we're going to make money." But don't build those things into the number that says whether or not we hit our debt service coverage ratio. It's really got to be just the meat, the nitty-gritty that meets those numbers. So yeah, promise me 12% even, and show me how this thing is like shooting fish in a barrel, and that we'll probably get higher returns. But you don't need to promise me crazy stuff. I'd rather you just tell me the real deal, and I'm in.

Ash Patel: I agree with you. And in addition to that, just because you've had historic rent increases, don't bank on that.

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah. Obviously, we both know, if you look up Google and you type in "US rent growth" and you skim a couple charts, there's been odd years, but 3% is the historical norm. And there's obviously dips and valleys of that 3%. But yeah, double-digit rent growth is not something to be banking on. I also wonder - some of the newer operators, when they say, "Hey, we bought it for this and 18 months later we sold it for that. It's because we did this great value-add." You're wondering "No, not really... The market was really hot." I don't know, it's like painting lipstick on a pig. The new painting and floors you did might not have had anything to do with the value; you might have been able to sell it and make money 18 months because you bought it cheap, and it went up high, and you sold. I don't know that your value-add really worked.

Ash Patel: And there's investors now willing to buy at a much lower cap. Maybe not today, but six months ago.

Andrew Rosenberg: Oh, even now. I'm seeing deals in Dallas that -- the cap rate is really creeping low in Dallas, Houston. I think Phoenix is coming back to reality a little bit... But yeah, those are the deals that maybe you have to pass. I've passed on deals that I look at and I'm thinking "They're probably going to make a lot of money", but if I'm not going to sleep good at night, it's not worth it. There's so many deals out there, there's so many operators... I don't need to hit a home run. I'm not looking to hit it big, or buy a yacht in the next five years, so I'm okay with nice and boring.

Ash Patel: Yeah. And I've seen people purchase at a two and a half cap, fully renovated Class A in Phoenix. So there's no more value-add other than rent growth.

Andrew Rosenberg: Well, there is the greater fool theory...

Ash Patel: Yeah. It makes you wonder how much lower you can go though, right?

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah. I guess the nice thing is that REITs and insurance companies and some of the big institutional players, or some of the sovereign players, the international money, sometimes do come into big markets, and they've got to find a home for their cash. And returns aren't always what they're looking for, as you can imagine. There are international investors that are going to buy large properties because they're going to lose less money with their money parked in America than possibly in their local currency, in the emerging markets.

Ash Patel: Very good point. Andrew, you've invested in office, farmland and ATM syndications. Why?

Andrew Rosenberg: Well, we both knew that when inflation was rearing its ugly head, and we were hearing all this nonsense from the Fed, "It's going to be transitory, we don't see it coming. It's peaked." The whole story, I won't go into it. It's just been absurd... We knew a while ago inflation was coming; you can't print that much money and not expect a problem. You can't shut an economy down and then turn the light switch back on. And then obviously we didn't predict a war in Ukraine and all these other issues... So for me, farmland has always been a great inflation hedge. If you look up the Weimar Republic of Germany post World War, the only people that were really making a lot of money were the farmers.

Ash Patel: Is this US farmland?

Andrew Rosenberg: US farmland. The Federal Reserve, they can't print more potatoes, they can't print more dirt, they can't print farmland. So that was one that I was willing to do. And, again, it's kind of funny, people think I'm a little crazy, but it's not any different than multifamily. They look at me kind of weird... With farmland I'm in this value-add play; they're converting into organic. The returns on your land are your crops; if they're certified organic, it's a lot higher than traditional farming. Now, there's that time in between, it takes a while to become an organic farm. So the people I invest with, that's what they're doing. So that's why they would seek people like us to invest in them, so we give them enough money, so it's to tied over that period, to convert the farm to organic.

Ash Patel: What is the anticipated IRR on that?

Andrew Rosenberg: I would say maybe 12 to 15. More realistically 12. And I'm okay with 12. If there's upside, and the war in Ukraine never ends, or farmland prices skyrocket, that'd be lovely. But I'm okay with that. Farmland is the least correlated to the stock market or other assets; it doesn't correlate well to other things. So I don't look at it as a particular investment. It's part of an overall portfolio. So when you're putting it in the portfolio, it's for diversification purposes.

Similarly, with the ATM. The ATM is very obvious. It's a seven-year plan. At the end of the seven years, there's almost no value in the ATM. So the depreciation on that ATM is incredibly high. So this is one where if you like a monthly cash flow coming in, this is the one for you, because the returns are very, very high. Plus, they're very, very tax-friendly, because the depreciation is insane. Instead of single family being 27,5 years, you're dividing by almost seven years. The depreciation is very accelerated.

That was just to put balance to the portfolio... When you're discussing investments with your spouse, they like to see money coming in. It's a good source of funds. And then office --

Ash Patel: Can we pause on the ATM for a second?

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah.

Ash Patel: I know very little about this, other than ATMs have a lifespan of about 10 years. Is that right?

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah. The guys I'm invested in with, we're planning on scrapping them at seven, and they're not having much residual value. But yeah, 7 to 10 years is about right. I think they wanted to do it in 7 because I'm assuming that years 8, 9, 10 you might have to do repairs. They just want to [unintelligible 00:24:16.21] and buy new ATMs at that point. They don't want to deal with repairs, is what I'm assuming.

Ash Patel: What does an ATM cost, do you know?

Andrew Rosenberg: I remember when I saw the presentation first... I mean, these guys are buying thousands of these as a portfolio across the country.

Ash Patel: And what's the return to you on that?

Andrew Rosenberg: Let's see... The proforma is hope, and I don't like hopium... But it'll probably be closer to the 19%. Because yeah, you're taking on risk; they have to offer more to get investors to come in, because people are afraid world's going cashless. So I don't see it as fast as other people, so I'm willing to do it. I know quite a few real estate investors have side money in the ATM, just to have a little bit of cash flow coming in. But I don't know anybody that's going to put substantial money in, or the bulk of a portfolio in it. It's a nice little extra that goes into a portfolio just to bring in a lot of cash flow.

Ash Patel: And there's no depreciation recapture on this, right? Because the asset's essentially useless.

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah, the asset is essentially junk. I want to say at the end of the seven years it's worth $200 or scrap; it's not really worth anything.

Ash Patel: And you cannot 1031 your investment.

Andrew Rosenberg: That's a good question. I should ask them that. They never mentioned it in the presentation, so I would think not. We're already getting such tremendous tax benefits on this one, because we're getting bonus depreciation on top of it.

Ash Patel: That's great. It's a great tax play. And whatever income you get should be tax-free, for the most part.

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah, it's virtually tax-free. So for me, it's a nice addition to a portfolio.

Ash Patel: And then the office investment. Tell me about that, please.

Andrew Rosenberg: Yes, office was a stretch for me. You can imagine most people - you read the headlines, and you would get scared, right?

Ash Patel: Apocalypse, yeah.

Andrew Rosenberg: Yeah. Then you hear Warren Buffett's voice preaching, "Andy, be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy, when others are fearful" and you think, "Okay, maybe I should listen to this presentation." Actually, for me it was funny - an investor was famous in a totally different realm, natural resources, Rick Rule. And he talks quite a bit about the same concept of where you really make your money is when no one wants to touch something, if you've got the cojones. So I'd better watch the presentation.

It's a group out of Canada, and they're the biggest player all across the Midwest. They're basically an institutional-size organization, but they treat it as a co-investing group; it's a family office. There's a lot of benefits to them. They keep their costs down. They're not interested in bonuses, or salaries or anything. They're invested with you really, with their money, and their mentality is entirely different from anybody you'll ever meet.

They actually specifically say to you when you meet them over Zoom, they want your kids to still be receiving distributions. That's [unintelligible 00:27:12.23] looking at is indefinite. They want to buy an office building at 35% of replacement value, send you your 6% distribution check, refinance it multiple times probably over the years, and they would like you to pass it on and your kid to receive it and they still own the property. It's a very different business model. They're very tough about who they let in, because they really don't want people that are going to call up scared six months later. But yeah, for me, I was willing to do that. When you know enough about this group, how they invest and their track record, there was a portion of my portfolio that said, "I don't want to keep constantly every five years having to find a new deal or find a new vendor. It would be nice just to collect my quarterly distribution check." And they bought the property so low that I sleep fine at night.

Ash Patel: Yeah, I love office, especially suburban office, or office that you can find for pennies on the dollar. Andrew, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Andrew Rosenberg: This is really specific towards LPs and syndications; what you're obviously teaching is really to ask more questions. I've met a lot of investors, and when I asked them why they picked an investment, a lot of it is a leap of faith. "The guy seems to know what he's doing on a podcast." Or "Why did you pick this one over this one if these were the two you were looking at, and one had a better website?" I've heard a lot of -- I wouldn't say bad answers, but answers that in a bull market everybody looks fine. When things get tough, the wheat is going to be separated from the chaff. I think investors spend a lot more time buying a toaster oven than they do picking investments. And that's kind of obviously not a good thing.

I always tell people, it's not really passive. There's no such thing as passive. You really do have to review the deal. You do have to do networking. You do have to read and know all the lingo and get to meet people... And over time, that burden of knowledge becomes lower, yes; but if you don't put in the initial work, you're really doing yourself a disfavor. This isn't like picking mutual funds. You can't just willy-nilly read a US news report, look for a top 10 mutual fund list and just Eeny-meeny-miny-moe, I'll take that mutual fund. There is a little more going on here.

Ash Patel: Great advice and very true. Andrew, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Andrew Rosenberg: Sure. Let's go for it.

Ash Patel: Alright, what's the Best Ever book you recently read?

Andrew Rosenberg: I guess we re-read with my son Rich Dad Poor Dad, because that's a classic.

Ash Patel: Andrew, what's the Best Ever way you like to give back?

Andrew Rosenberg: I still think time is the most sincere give-back. And my wife, more than me - she's really the ringleader of that. So we've done the community cleanups, or -- there's a community garden nearby our house where the volunteers will come and work some of the plants, or help with hauling dirt, or rocks, or whatever it is, or pulling weeds... To me still that is giving your time. Money is good too, but when we take our son, the lesson that really will stick out is cutting a check and showing your son cut a check for a charity - it's a little different than sweat all over your brow, and your hands are dirty, and you're gardening all morning. That to me is a little more meaningful.

Ash Patel: Andrew, how can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?

Andrew Rosenberg: Sure. I'm an easy one to find on LinkedIn. Obsessively, compulsively, I probably post a little too much on LinkedIn. And then I'm easy to reach - my email address is Andrew [at] It's a mouthful, but it's easy to spell.

Ash Patel: Andrew, thank you so much for your time today. You've given us a lot of good advice for syndicators. Make sure you talk about your reserves, your debt structure, your exit strategy, exit caps... A lot of great advice covered today, and thank you for sharing your investment journey with us today as well.

Andrew Rosenberg: Well, thanks for having me, Ash. I appreciate it.

Ash Patel: Best Ever listeners, thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a five star review. Share the podcast with someone you think can benefit from it. Also, follow, subscribe and have a Best Ever day!

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