In a previous blog, How I House Hacked Into Multifamily, I announced that we’re under contract on a 55-unit multifamily (MF) deal in Spartanburg, SC. A few have asked about the process of purchasing multifamily properties from beginning to end, so here’s my path from beginning to present. I’ll note that a few months ago, I teamed up with a like-minded partner that I met through a forum similar to ADPI, and it’s been extremely beneficial. Multifamily begins and ends as a TEAM SPORT!
Upfront, a key step in the process is actually committing to make MF investing work. I will retire in 2021 and am not making any other plans for a j-o-b afterward. No plan B, just this. I also put some money where my mouth is and took $25k out of my financial freedom account and bought into a mentoring program through the Michael Blank network. Finally, to get the ultimate partner on board, I told my wife we’d go to Rome on my first 50+ deal. Committed!
The next step was to narrow the focus down to a few specific markets. I’m in DC and it’s not easy here to get into the game. So, I did a comparative analysis of metros in the Southeastern USA. Why southeast? Well, a larger trend in the US is that money is leaving the NE for the SE, both in terms of people and jobs. So, I looked at metros larger than 250k population with positive economic and population growth trends. I narrowed it down to 5 metros and decided that my initial focus was Greenville-Spartanburg CSA and Columbia, SC. I really love the dynamics in Greenville-Spartanburg: the recent and projected economic, population and job growth, revitalization of the downtown areas, and demand for multifamily due to the high percentage of working-class population. Admittedly, the numbers for Columbia were just okay, but my wife grew up there (and the truth is that having connections and KNOWING an area well can sometimes balance out the purely economic reasoning - knowledge can be your market advantage when looking for a property!).
Start calling brokers. In general, I first email with my deal criteria and bio and follow up with a call within a day or two. I find that most brokers don’t respond, but that about half of the brokers that I speak with actually open the bio. I probably contacted 20 brokerages with not much luck. I was able to get three that were willing to work with me the first time around. Two of them sent me off-market deals they had in the pipeline. All it took was an email and a phone.
When you have brokers send you deals, analyze them and provide feedback. There are many tools available and personally, I use Michael Blank’s syndicated deal analyzer. For each potential deal, I did my research, crunched the numbers, and went back to the brokers with questions and feedback. On one particular deal, the asking price was $6.4mm. I’d tell the broker something like: "we can currently offer $5.8mm, which I know is too low. If we can verify x, y, and z, we’ll be able to bring up our offer price." We came close on a few offers where we submitted LOIs, and the broker kept sending us more off-market deals.
The next step is to visit the property. I was analyzing one I really liked in Greer, SC, so I scheduled a visit. I took leave, drove 7 hours and spent a few days in the area meeting with brokers, property managers, and various professionals. On the trip, one broker asked me if I wanted to visit another property that they had just received and I agreed. I made notes, took a lot of photos, and forgot about it. That turned out to be the property we have under contract now, but at the time, I was more interested in the Greer deal. After a week or so, we had submitted an LOI for the one in Greer. Round downrange, but our shot was in the berm, so I moved on to the next property.
When I finally looked at the details of the 55-unit in Spartanburg, I was surprised that it had a higher upside than any other place we’d analyzed. I looked at the area comps online and realized that we could raise rents immediately on most of the units. Likewise, I saw that making some generous upgrades would allow us to significantly increase rents, so I called my favorite PM in the area to get her opinion on the numbers. She confirmed what I had assumed. A few weeks had passed since the deal had been presented and I was worried about competition, so I called the broker. She told me that there was one other interested party. I had already visited it, so we decided to act fast.
The next step is to make an offer. Okay, not as easy as it seems. I scheduled calls with my partners and reviewed the assumptions we had made on income, expenses, and renovation costs. I called our lender, lawyer, insurance broker, and made a dozen calls to the PM. We finally felt confident with a maximum purchase price of $4.0mm, so we wrote up the LOI. We decided to offer $3.7mm as a starting point. The seller countered at $4.0mm. We came up to $3.9mm and the seller held firm. So we agreed to $4.0mm and he signed the LOI.
Next step, contract negotiation. This is where the lawyers get involved. My lawyers to protect my interests and his to protect his interests. We batted the contract back and forth a few times, attorneys red-lined words, sentences, and sometimes paragraphs, and after 10 days had the deal under contract.
Okay, so we’ve got the contract… now what? We asked for 30 CALENDAR days due diligence, a 30-day loan contingency and an additional 30 days to close (90 days total) with a built-in 30-day extension. The seller offered 60 BUSINESS days due diligence, 30 days to close, and an optional extension. We accepted immediately. It was funny--a week after we signed the contract, the broker called us because the seller never realized the contract was measured in business days. In our case, that’s 87 calendar days for due diligence. Turns out that words mean things. I digress….
This is typically a document review. In the contract, we asked for a ton of documents from the seller within 5 days of the contract being signed: bank statements, utility bills, contracts, maintenance logs, surveys, appraisals, leases, rent rolls, legal docs, tax returns, etc. The objective is to follow the money and make sure the deal is as advertised. With commercial real estate, you are essentially buying an income stream, so you want to make sure that you can achieve what your projections are in the analysis phase. I asked the PM to do a lease audit for us to see what we’ll inherit. I spent hours pouring over utility statements and financials to verify current expenses, and there’s still plenty to get done. So far, so good (except the current PM has paid a lot of late fees on bills. Note to self: do an occasional audit of my PM's performance in paying bills AND get it in writing that the PM is responsible for ALL late payments on accounts that they are expected to manage).
This is usually the physical inspections. We scheduled a roofing inspection, got a bid on parking lot upgrades, and walked through every apartment with an inspection team including a licensed inspector, my property manager (and maintenance guru), and the broker. We made extensive notes and both the inspector and PM company are writing up reports on the general condition of the premises. We also discussed the items that need further inspection, such as plumbing and electrical, and our plan for capital expenses--such as roof repairs, parking lot improvements, renovations, etc. Still a work in progress, but we have finished about half of the expected due diligence activities.
One thing I’ll stress is the value that a mentor has provided throughout this entire process. He’s closed on over 500 units and is under contract on his first retail deal. The next key is the synergy between me and my partners. We all play key roles and have different strengths. Among other things, I’m the attention to detail guy who can analyze with the best of them, Eric is a master at finding deals and is a natural salesman, Brian raises funds and can PowerPoint like a staff officer, Todd raises money and gets us over lending hurdles that dictate total net worth and liquidity, and Josh has syndicated before, partners with even bigger fish, and brings knowledge and experience to the table.
I hope you’re all able to find value in this. At least you’ll get an appreciation for the amount of effort it takes to get this far. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart (but we’re all in a profession that requires strength of character). Now, stop waiting to get into the game. Figure out your next 2-3 steps and then go and do it.
Brian Briscoe is a LtCol in the Marine Corps, father of five, and husband to Angie for over 20 years. He is an advisor in Michael Blank’s Deal Maker Mastermind and a member of Michael’s Elite Investing Club. He is also an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Brian can be found checking in frequently in ADPI’s #StartTheSpark and will sometimes even Facebook. If you have questions about multifamily or want to know how you can passively invest in multifamily, contact him at [email protected] or visit the website at https://www.fouroakscapital.com/.