As a syndicator and real estate investor, I partner with passive investors and buy large multifamily properties. My company, Blue Lake Capital, purchases multifamily properties (usually 100-400 units), renovates them, improves their Net Operating income (NOI) and sell them after 3-7 years.
While each multifamily property is different, there are some underlying principles that I’ve used over the years, and continue to use because they work. Recently, I closed on a 2-property portfolio in Atlanta. It was a $28M purchase, and while each deal is unique, I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned by going through the process of acquiring this property. Hopefully, you’ll find the lessons useful as you pursue your own deals.
Lesson #1: Choose the Right Lender
I can’t overstate this enough - choosing the right lender can make or break your overall deal. When first starting out, most syndicators go with the lender that offers the lowest interest rates. There is no question that rates and terms are important, but there is more to it than numbers.
The strength of the lender, and the relationship that the lender has with agency lending programs like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, is just as important as the terms and rates that they quote you. Let me explain why choosing the right lender is critically important, based on the lesson I just learned on my $28M purchase.
In my previous life as a lawyer, I used to say “you don’t need a contract if everything goes well” – and this is true, because the only time you rely on the contract is when things go south. The same goes for real estate as well. If things proceed without any complications, then the lender you choose is not critically important. But in real estate – things don’t always go as planned or as smoothly as anticipated. That’s where you can run into complications.
You certainly should gather quotes and compare terms, but it’s hard to place a value on a lender who you know will stand behind you and support you when it’s critically needed.
The property’s state (occupancy, Net Operating Income, etc.) tend to change a bit between the time you have the deal under contract and closing. When we found out 2 days before closing that vacancy increased significantly, we knew that though it was still a very strong deal, the new numbers would affect the loan terms. Thanks to our relationship with the lender, and the fact our lender has a strong standing with Fannie Mae, things worked out well. The lender had a direct line of communication with Fannie Mae and was well respected by the agency. This helped us get the loan despite the increase in vacancy, and because the lender vouched for us, they were able to mitigate some of the impact that the new financials had on our deal.
When all is said and done, the relationship you develop with the lender is still the main reason to have them fund your properties. As I learned in my Atlanta purchase, having that relationship was crucial.
Lesson #2: Honesty with Your Investors Goes a Long Way
As I previously mentioned, during the closing process we found that the vacancy rate on the property changed. Even when things don’t go smoothly, never hide information from your investors.
It stands to reason, as a sponsor you’re in charge of your investor’s money, so you have a fiduciary duty to be upfront and transparent. So when we noticed that the vacancy rate had changed, I knew we had to disclose that information to our investors. This was only a few days prior to closing, so the timing certainly wasn’t ideal.
To help mitigate the problem, we were able to get a credit from the seller based on the gap in occupancy rates from the time we signed the deal until closing. I emailed my investors letting them know about the last minute change and the price reduction we received. The response I got from investors surprised even me. They appreciated the transparency and were happy they were that we not only resolved the issue, but that we shared the information with them when we found out about it.
Open communications helps in building trust with your investors, even, and especially when it’s not comfortable to talk about not-so-positive-surprises. That transparency is what helps build relationships with investors. When you build a reputation of honesty and integrity, you’re able to cultivate the long-term relationships your business requires. As long as you’re open and honest with your investors, any type of problem can be resolved.
Lesson #3: Be a Present Owner
Before you complete the syndication and close your deal, you start with a business plan. Once the deal is closed, it’s time to manage your asset and implement the business plan (which is mainly renovating both units and amenities). I can tell you from experience just how important it is to be a present owner.
After we closed the deal, I stayed in Atlanta for about a week to begin implementing our business plan. I met with the leasing officer, the property managers, and the maintenance staff. The team was very passionate about the plan to improve the property and had very strong views on the plan as well. When the team sees how much you are committed to the success of your investment, they become more motivated. We do hire a property management company that hires and manages the local staff, but meeting with the owner and interacting with them directly makes an impact.
As important as the property is to the syndication, choosing the right lender is equally as important to the overall success of your deal. Be open and honest with your investors. The more transparent you are, the more they will appreciate what you do. Finally, be a present owner. Once the deal is closed, stick around and get a firsthand look at all the components that make a multifamily property profitable. Not only will you gain knowledge that’s needed to make your business plan successful, your management team will have a greater respect for you and your involvement in the process.
These are the lessons I learned from the $28M property I closed in Atlanta. I hope they will be helpful to you as well.
Are you a real estate investor and interested in learning more about passively investing in multifamily properties? Click here to download The 5 Key Deal Components any Passive Investor Must Examine Closely.
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About the Author
Ellie Perlman is a real estate investor who owns multifamily properties across the U.S. Ellie is the Founder and CEO of Blue Lake Capital, a real estate investing firm specializing in multifamily investments. At Blue Lake Capital, Ellie helps investors grow their wealth by investing alongside her in large multifamily deals.
Ellie leads a mentoring program, REady2Scale, where she coaches people to become multifamily syndicators by building a syndication business and scaling it.
She started her career as a commercial real estate lawyer, leading real estate transactions for Israel’s largest real estate company. Later, she transitioned to a property manager role and oversaw properties worth over $100MM.