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Self Directed IRA

Did you know that you can invest IRA accounts into real estate? It’s possible through a Self Directed IRA! It’s a bit underutilized with having an IRA working through real estate and other investments. It’s been around since 1974-same as the traditional IRA. There are some rules and regulations to follow and make sure that they qualify but once having an understanding that this is a great opportunity to have more control of your IRA money working in the nice alternative to the traditional mutual funds, stocks, bond markets.

Self Directed IRA’s have grown in more popularity in the last few years. It can be used for the following real estate, precious metals, notes, tax lien certificates, private placements…

There are many custodians to choose from and do your due diligence! Need to understand the services, fees and time frame for executing your investments.

This would be a transfer from your current IRA account to the custodian of your choosing. Here are a few options:

https://www.iraservices.com/

https://www.advantaira.com/

https://www.midlandira.com/

This could be used for when changing jobs-rollover 401(k) or traditional or Roth IRA. Overall it’s a great alternative to traditional IRA market.

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Internal Rate of Return

What is Internal Rate of Return and Cash on Cash return?

Cash on Cash Return-return on invested capital… it’s the total cash earned on the total cash invested. Its quite common to use this metric for investment purposes in commercial real estate


Example: Cash on Cash = Annual Pre Tax Cash Flow/Total Cash flow

In this current market getting anywhere-7-9% cash on cash return

Depending on the asset class, it could be calculated while holding onto the property and also when the property is sold. This metric does not measure time value of money

Internal Rate of Return-interest rate that makes the net present value of all cash flow equal to zero. This is a more sophisticated way of measuring the investment. Can use excel to help calculate it. This metric a tool to help estimate the real estate investment’s probability and value over time.

faq

25 FAQs by Investors

As part of a syndication team that spends ample time educating and answering investor questions I wanted to compile some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) as part of a quick study guide for new folks who are looking to invest in this area.  It’s also good for folks who are new to raising private equity what to expect most from investors in the way of questions.  These are in no order and note that there are various types of deals and syndication structures so one size does not fit all.  I’m going to focus on value add apartment syndications which is a very mainstream investment niche many investors get involved in as their first foray into syndication.

1) What is syndication? In its simplest form, syndication is the pooling of investor money where the investor is typically a passive, limited partner.  The other partner to the deal is the general partner, or active partner that puts the deal together, manages the business plan to provide a return for the benefit of all investors. You will hear General Partner (GP), Syndicate and Sponsor often used interchangeably. 

2) What are your return projections and how are your returns calculated?  As of this writing, typical cash on cash returns are in the 8-10% range and an internal rate of return (IRR) of 16 – 20% range.  You may also see an average rate of return which is simply the total return over 5 years divided by 5.  In value add syndication, the average annual return may be deceiving (higher) than the IRR (Internal Rate of Return) as a large part of the investor returns come in the year of sale (modeled as year 5).  IRR typically would be a better measure for varying cash flows over a set time horizon.

3) When will I get my original investment back and what is the holding period?  Typically, at time of sale.  For our deals, year 5 is the target.  It could happen in year 3 or year 7 or longer if we have a long downturn but 5 is typically what value add syndicators have as a target.

4) What are the risks?  They are outlined in the PPM.  That said, I like to provide a few data points.  In 2009, at the bottom of the financial crisis, delinquency rates on single family homes was 5% vs 1% on MF apartments.  Additionally, in Houston when oil went from $100 barrel to $50 barrel Class A (new apt buildings) had to offer concessions and vacancies rose to 15% while Class B (older MF where value add syndicators play) remained steady at 8%. Lastly, we buy proven. Our typical apartment acquisition will have occupancy greater than 90% and usually higher than that and the previous owner was making good money (T12 – trailing 12-month audit will prove this out).  We want to improve proven properties not buy on hope.

5) What is a limited partner?  A passive investor in the deal.  They have limited liability.  Their risk is limited to the amount they invest in the deal, no more.  Their other assets are protected.  They cannot be sued, they are not on the loan and are not responsible for the active performance of the property.

6) What is the minimum investment?  We set it at $50K and increments of $5K.

7) When will I get paid?  We do monthly (after 30 days of full monthly operations upon closing of the property).  That can be direct deposited into the investors account. Most syndicates do monthly or quarterly distributions.

8) How will you communicate with me?  Monthly quick updates (email) on how the investment’s progress.  Typical bullet points / some pics on how many units were renovated, rents we are getting, etc.  Quarterly property management financials can be reviewed.  Following March of each year you will receive a K-1 statement from us for your tax filings.

9) What kind of tax impact is there?  Apartment syndications are very tax efficient.  As a partner in our limited partnership, you will benefit from your portion of the investment’s deductions for property taxes, loan interest and depreciation which are the big ones.  We like to use a cost segregation strategy as well to accelerate depreciation since we don’t plan on holding onto the asset for a long time.  You will get a K-1 statement from the partnership in March of the following year for the current tax year.  It’s not unusual on a $100K investment to experience a min 8% preferred return or cash in your pocket of $8K while experiencing a paper loss on your annual K-1.  Additionally, any refinances or supplemental loans are reviewed as a return of equity so no tax impacts.  At time of sale, there may be an opportunity to 1031 exchange into another property that the sponsor wants to buy to continue to defer your long-term gains tax.  Keep in mind some depreciation recapture may occur at time of sale if a 1031 exchange does not occur in addition to the long-term capital gains tax you would be responsible for paying on the gains.

10) What is the process / timeline?  Once we have a property under contract, due diligence is about 60 days.  We start the equity raise process with investors which runs about 5-6 weeks end to end.  Marketing deck goes out, investor conference call takes place, investors reserve a spot, review the PPM / sign and fund.  About 2-3 weeks later we close on the property.  About 60 days later first investor distribution.

11) Why would we purchase a property where the Yelp reviews were so poor?  We believe that’s a good thing.  As value add syndicators, if all news was good, there would be nothing to improve.  The property is often re-branded (new name), new website, new property management team is brought in.  Focus is on operational improvement and renovating the property.  There’s a focus on intangibles such hosting monthly community gatherings to foster a sense of community that may have been lost which can improve retention, reduce turnover.  This can be turned around faster than you think.  Re-branding, re-positioning the asset is the focus.

12) How do you renovate with people living there? When we take over a property, even a 300-unit apartment will have 15 vacant units if occupancy is at 95%.  We start there.  Next month when 10-12 leases are up, we introduce the residents to their new renovated unit (move them in) and start renovating their vacated unit and keep repeating this process month after month.  We expect that the improved unit will be so dramatic that retention / new lease signups will be high.

13) What is a supplemental loan?  It’s very common to create a lot of value once the renovations are complete and the forecasted rent is being achieved.  That is when the value is optimized in a value add strategy.   You go back to the bank with a higher assessed property value and either refinance the property (if you had a variable rate loan) or you obtain a second loan on the property (called a supplemental loan) if you have an attractive fixed rate in place that you want to keep.  This second loan allows you to pull equity out for the investors benefit which increases the cash on cash returns and IRR on the project.

14) What is a sensitivity analysis?  We like to show investors under different scenarios if our forecasts are off, what is the breakeven point for profitability given a decline in occupancy or if rents don’t project where we expected.  Surprisingly most of our scenarios allow occupancy to go to 75% to break even.  During the 2009 financial crisis, third party data proved that in one the submarkets in Dallas where we have five apartment communities (Richardson) that the worst level was 85%.  That is comforting to our investors to know this information.

15) Can I use a 1031?  You cannot 1031 into our deals or out of our deals since you are technically purchasing units of our Limited Partnership and not actually the land itself.  That said, there are mechanisms where we expect to be able to 1031 from one of our deals into another one of our deals, thus deferring the tax you would have normally paid on the sale of the first apartment.

16) Can I use a SD-IRA or solo 401K to fund the deal? As this time, you can but there is a UBIT tax to understand on the SD-IRA as the IRS does not want to see you take advantage of the leveraged portion of the investment.  Interestingly, the solo 401K does not have this problem.

17) What happens if we have a hardship and want to get out before we sell the property? There is nothing in our prospectus for a workout or formula for such a scenario.  The investment should be considered an illiquid investment.  That said, as a partner with you, the general partner will review your issue and see if there is something that can be done based on your circumstances.

18) What are your fees?  Most important is returns forecasted should be post fees.  Most common two fees are acquisition fee (2% I see most often) based on purchase price and paid once to the sponsor at closing.  This covers all the sponsors costs to find and put under contract this one deal.  The second most common fee is the asset management fee (typically 2%) based on the monthly revenues.  The asset management fee is for the sponsor to hold the property manager accountable and to ensure execution of the business plan.  Industry averages are 1-3 % for both fees. 

19) What is a PPM?  The Private Placement Memorandum is required by the SEC and describes the offering, risks, includes the partnership agreement, investment summary and subscription agreement.  It is a lengthy legal document well over 100 pages.  The subscription agreement is what investors will review, sign and includes basic information as to number of units and amounts being purchased, accredited investor’s declaration form, etc.  I like to pre-wire new investors if they have never seen a PPM before because the risk section is a bit heavy (like the Surgeon General’s warning) highlighting about every possible risk that could happen.  I tell investors that there are risks to every investment, yes, you can lose your entire investment, but certainly I highlight the good track record MF investments have had in severe market down markets.  Additionally, no lender is going to give us $10m to $30m unless we are experienced, have a good business plan, conservative underwriting (bank’s will underwrite the deal as well), have adequate insurance and have the property condition report completed by outside experts (often 100-pages) highlighting what fixes need to be made before we take over the property.

20) Are your forecasts conservative?  It should be yes.  Good sponsors will want to underpromise and overdeliver.  You want to review all financial assumptions from the sponsor and ensure they make sense.  Key ones to focus on would be rents (check the area comps for before and after renovation pricing – you want to be under where the market is before and after), rent growth and occupancy.  Review the T12 (prior 12 months from previous owner).  Does the value add improvements, increased income and timing of those improvements make sense to the forecast?

21) What if we have a downturn in the economy?  We won’t want to sell in a down market.  The goal would be to continue to pay the preferred return minimum and hold on until the market is healthier to achieve a better price at sale.  Class B/C value add properties tend to hold up much better in downturns because folks need a place to stay and rents are more in line with the market / service economy demographic that is typically still employed in downturns versus the class A renter making $100K/yr. whose jobs are more at risk (i.e. Houston oil crisis example).

22) What is a preferred return?  Typically, 8% is what I see most.  This favors the limited partner.  It essentially means that the first 8% return on an investment (distributions from cash flow or capital events such as refi proceeds or sale) will go entirely to the limited partner, nothing to the general partners.  This is not a guarantee but the next best thing.

23) What is a split and what is a waterfall?  The split is investment returns that go to the investors in the portion of the split.  So, if the split is 70% to the limited partner and 30% to the general partner, after the preferred return is paid (if there is one), then the partners splits all other proceeds from distributions or capital events 70/30.  That split can change if a certain hurdle (or waterfall) is achieved.  Example:  A split could by 70/30 then go to 50/50 once the IRR hits say 18%.  Any returns higher than 18%, will then be split 50/50 LP/GP.  That is a waterfall.

24) What is an accredited investor?  We currently market our deals under SEC regulations 506 (b) meaning we can only share our deals with investor who are accredited and we have a relationship with.  The definition in the U.S. is a person earning $200K per year or a couple earning $300K per year over the past two years and expected to do so in the current year; or a net worth of $1m (excluding your primary residence).  Since we don’t advertise our deals the accreditation determination is by self-disclosure of the investor by a checkbox.  If the deal is advertised to the public, then verification by an outside third party is required.

25) Do syndicates invest in their own deal ? You will typically see this being the case to align with investors.  However, when the GP invests, that money goes with all other investors money into the LP investment bucket (70% split).  In other words, the GP split of say 30% is what the GP wants to earn for doing all the work.  If he puts money in the deal, he’s increasing his stake in the deal so it is going in on the LP side.  That’s how it works.

vetsponsor

Top 10 questions to vet out a sponsor/operator From an insider

I attended a multi-family meetup group here in Austin this past week and the topic raised by one of the attendees who was new to apartment investing was how to vet a deal sponsor as part of the investment valuation process.  As part of a deal sponsor team that has done six large multifamily apartment acquisitions over the past year I felt her challenge, especially as a new investor trying to come up to speed.  So, I essentially told the folks attending that I would do a blog on this topic to help provide some guidance.

In every deal you evaluate, I like to look at three main things: 

1)    The Market
2)    The Deal
3)    The Team 

This blog article will focus on number 3 (the Team, aka Sponsor) however I would say they are all important.  Some would say, and I probably agree, that the market where the apartment is located is by far the most important element here.  You can have a great deal and a great team, but if you are in a crappy market or location (think non-growth or declining; crime ridden; etc.) you are not going to be very successful period!  Give me a great market and a great team and an ok deal, and you can still make some good money because the market and the great team will cover up and manage through some of the deal challenges.  Give me a great market and a great deal, but a bad and inexperienced team and you can lose your shirt, end of story.

So, yes, you want all three in your favor but let’s focus on the sponsor (sometimes referred to as the general partner, deal sponsor or syndicator).  What should you be looking for in a sponsor?  I will tell you that as a person who has his own company dedicated to raising private equity from accredited investors and who works closely with select sponsors to help fund and acquire apartments, that I have firsthand experience as to what is most commonly asked, what is not, and what probably should be.  I’m part of the general partnership team on each deal per SEC requirements to market the deals so I’m very close to how these sponsors operate and what to look for.  I put together a list of 10 things to consider to make it more convenient to think about.  They are in no particular order of importance.  This is also not an all-inclusive list. As you gain experience, you may add to the list or modify it to suit you. But again, I’m just focusing on the sponsor, not the market or deal which reminds me those would be good topics for another blog article or two. So here are my top 10 suggestions:

1)    Company and Partner Backgrounds
a.    Does the company have a website?  Is it well organized and thoughtful?
b.    Do they lay out their strategy and does it seem conservative and disciplined?  Process oriented? You want simple, singular and focused strategies.
c.    Are all the key partners listed with their bios?
d.    How long have they been doing this business?  Can you identify with at least one key partner with 10 yrs. experience (thru a full market cycle) or just started?  I’m ok if the business has only a few deals if newly formed, what I really am looking for is the tenure and experience of the partners in this industry. 
e.    Google their names and make sure nothing bad comes up.  Go to LinkedIn and Facebook; review any articles or books they have written.  You are looking for honest, high integrity, high character folks here. Spend some time and use your gut instinct if something doesn’t seem right or is not aligned with what they are saying in their bios, company missions’ statement, philosophies or what you are uncovering in their histories.  The big ones would be bankruptcies, felonies, or SEC or state violations as red flags.  This is a well-regulated industry and compliance is a top priority.
f.    Are they active in online real estate investing forums?  I am a member of Bigger Pockets (an online real estate investing social network).  If a sponsor is active there, it is easy for prospective investors to simply ask in the forums has anyone ever participated in “so and so’s” deals before and would they mind going offline to discuss.  

g.    Review their marketing materials (deal summary deck, videos, listen to  conference calls).  Is everything looking professional, organized and is the business plan simple and clear?  How do they handle investor questions on the conference call?  Do they present themselves professionally and address all questions thoughtfully?
h.    PPM (Private Placement Memorandum) – ask for a copy of a PPM, peruse the risks section but a lot of that is required SEC language, I like to focus primarily on the partnership agreement section. This is where the partnership roles and responsibilities are laid out and how things will be handled. Tip – if you are having trouble sleeping, read a PPM…ha. Bottom-line, we tell investors we are partnering with you, are interests are aligned and we will do what’s best.  Our reputation is at stake in not only performing well but treating you right!
i.    Reputation?  What have the partners got to lose?  I like focused (fulltime) syndicators but I’m ok if they have related businesses.  My sponsor I work with has an active apartment coaching business teaching students about how to get into this field and succeed; and a nationwide podcast interviewing experts on their best real estate advice.  So, if he becomes a “bad apple” at some point, wow, he loses 3 businesses including his main business of being a sponsor for large MF deals and losing his main ability to raise capital and do deals.  He and I agree that one’s reputation is everything in this business! Reputation is so important that you are soon out of business if you don’t protect and maintain it.

2)    Track Record
a.    Does the company have a track record that you can review?  Sometimes the projects and track record are posted on their website so it would be good to see that.  If not, request it.
b.    You want to see consistency in types of projects they are investing in?  (Example: do they only do large value add class B apartment properties or are they all over the place A/B/C/D including other niches like storage, etc. or strategies like turnarounds, momentum plays, etc.)  The simpler more consistent strategy is best.  You get very good at focus.
c.    Performance – ideally, you’d like to see evidence of returns (cash on cash %, growth in NOI, consistent distributions especially if there is a preferred return) at or above the original business plan forecasts and within industry expectations. For instance, in large apartment value investing, 10% cash on cash returns and 20% IRR over a five-year hold is reasonable to achieve as of this writing.  If I see a deal promising 15% cash on cash return and 25% or higher IRR I get a little nervous.  If a sponsor does 10 deals, its invariable that they may have a deal that is just meeting expectations as no one is perfect in this industry, however, if they state a preferred return to investors they should be hitting that 8%. The sponsor does not get paid under a preferred return plan until the limited partner (investor) gets paid up to the full 8% or stated target.

3)    References
a.    I get asked for references from time to time by investors considering their first investment with us.  I’m more than happy to provide to investors.  I usually will seek out an investor or two who have been in our deals longer and in a couple of investments.  I try to provide different references so I don’t overburden anyone of our investors but I think it helps and investors who do this extra step seem to like it.  You may want to ask questions like:
i.    How has it performed (you want at least at or above expectations)?
ii.    How are the communications quality and frequency with the investors?
iii.    Any issues or concerns you have experienced and how have they been handled?  (you want promptly…with a corrective action plan / process improvement attitude from the sponsor).

4)    Investor Relations  
a.    Availability – Does the Sponsor have time for you?  Do they make themselves available to answer your questions and educate you?
i.    You should be able to talk to the sponsor directly.  
ii.    You should be able to ask the sponsor just about any question and they should be able to answer you promptly with a quality response.
iii.    Are you comfortable with their responses?  Do they help educate you on technical areas?  Sponsors want to have long term relationships with their investor so if they are not answering you could get a sense that they are not thinking long about this business and where does the limited partner (investor) sit in this relationship.  You want to feel as an equal partner, you should be well informed and very comfortable with your investment and how you are treated, communicated with is very important.
b.    Can you tour the property?  If an investor wants to see the property, I’ll line that up with the property manager and meet them as well if possible.
c.    Communications Schedule – A good sponsor should give you an example of an investor communications schedule and some correspondence on past deals for you to review.  The schedule should contain frequency of communications, timing of distributions and K-1 statements for tax purposes, how you can contact the sponsor and other handy tips.

5)    Conservative Underwriting / Assumptions and Forecasts
a.    This might be one of the most important points, cannot overemphasize that a good sponsor should be principled in being conservative in their numbers and assumptions that make up the business plan and investment performance projections.
b.    Words like “capital preservation” and “conservative underwriting” should come out loud and clear on the company website, any projects you are reviewing, etc.  It’s not rocket science but a lot of common sense.  The business model in value add apartment investing with experienced sponsors is quite attractive financially so there is no compelling reason to embellish the numbers or stretch. You can conservatively post numbers that gain investor attention and interest and pleasantly surprise them during the duration of the investment with upside performance.  Why take risks in forecasting higher numbers and then struggle to meet them consistently.
c.    Every deal you analyze you will want to review the sponsor’s assumptionscarefully.  Better yet, a good sponsor in dealing with more sophisticated investors will put together a sensitivity analysis report that shows you how your investment returns are impacted when four key areas of the investment model change (occupancy, rent, interest rates and cap rates).  This can cause your investment returns to change either more positive or negative.  I focus more on the worst-case scenarios and see if I can still live with it.  Here’s an example of how a sponsor might take different assumptions.  Let me set this up.  We bought a property where 25% of the units were already renovated and the previous owner was getting $100 more in rent across all size apartment units (studio, 1×1, 2×2, 3×3).  The market comps around us for renovated units were about $115-$125 more per unit.  The company underwrote the deal at $71.  That’s a nice spread, from $71 to $125.  The market can go soft and you can still make good money for the investor at $71.  More aggressive might be to assume $100 and even more aggressive, assume $115 to $125 and show your investor a greater return.  Not a good idea.  Always want to under promise, over deliver so be conservative.  Same with occupancy.  Submarket was at 97%, we were at 95% upon purchase, but we underwrote to 90% year one and 93% thereafter.  Our sensitivity analysis showed even if the market had a melt down and we got 81% occupancy, we still yield 6% to the investor in a market meltdown and be profitable.

6)    Sponsor / Limited Partner (Investor) Payout Structure
a.    Review the payout structure and understand how the sponsor and you the investor gets paid for distributions, refinances and sales. 
b.    Common industry splits can be 20 – 40 % for Sponsor and 60 – 80% for the Limited Partner.  I’m comfortable up to about 30% and I’m generally comfortable with a waterfall but as a marketer of deals it complicates things when talking with investors.  A waterfall is where after a certain hurdle rate is reached (typically IRR measured) the split can change.  Example: up to 13% its 70/30.  After 13% up to 18%, split changes to 65/35 and so forth.  The idea is that the sponsor will get a higher return (incentive) by showing a stronger performance.  Again, if an investor is being shown a 20% IRR then the waterfall splits should already be taken into consideration in the forecast.
c.    Preferred Return – I personally like to see a preferred return in the deal.  This favors the investor. There is no guarantee when you invest in these deals, however, the next best thing to a guarantee for the limited partner is a preferred return.  Typical preferred return is 8%.  What this means usually is that any distribution, refinance or sale that creates cash to the investor, the first 8% (to equate to an 8% cash on cash yield) will be paid to the limited partners and the sponsor gets nothing until we exceed that threshold.  Above 8%, then the payout reverts to the split agreed to of say 70% to the investor and 30% to the sponsor.  Be careful here.  When comparing deals, I often see “club” investors that are over focused on working with sponsors that only take 20% but club deals I see don’t have a preferred return.  So, all things equal, I’d take the preferred return any day and be fine w/the 70/30 split after that.  Do the math, it takes a significant return say mid-teens and higher before you’d see an even trade off.  I feel with an 8% preferred, I’m essentially getting as close to a guarantee as possible.  An 8% return paid these days is darn good and knowing the sponsor gets no return until the investor gets their 8% return, would be important to me as an investor.

7)    Sponsor Fees / Investor Alignment
a.    The first two are very common fees, the others are optional:
i.    Acquisition fee (1-3% of the purchase price of the apartment paid to the sponsor at closing).  This is for all the work the sponsor goes through to find just this one great property but having to look at, analyze over 50 to 100 to get to this one and all the work leading up to the close including taking care of the staff, administration, analyst, marketing, etc.  It’s a onetime fee.  I can live with 2%.
ii.    Asset Management fee (1-3% of the monthly revenues generated by the apartment) paid out usually quarterly to the sponsor.  This is primarily to cover the costs and time associated with ensuring the apartment management company executes the business plan. Again, I see 2% as common.
iii.    Loan guarantee – sometime you will see this because the lender requires one or two of the key sponsors to put up their net worth as collateral to the size of the loan.  So specific folks on the sponsor team want to get paid to take on that burden / risk even if non-recourse loans are common (as carve out rules usually apply).  
iv.    Refinance hurdle award say 2% – This should be set high, like 60 to 75% which essentially rewards the sponsor if they create so much value that when they decide to refinance and pull money out to the investors that if they get say 75% of the investor capital back that they get a 2% bonus as part of exceeding expectations.  I tell investors if we hit this number, the investment is an absolute home run and we deserve it.  It should be set very high, a real stretch.
v.    Disposition fee – typically 1% of the sale price paid to the sponsor for all the work in selling a property.  Optional.  
b.    Fees should not impact projections shown but double check.  Its common that the cash on cash return and IRR you are shown in the 5 year projections on the investment are after fees have been taken out.  In other words, if the investment projects say a 10% cash on cash yield and a 20% IRR over a 5-year hold, that is what the sponsor is targeting for you to receive assuming the sponsor executes to the plan.  Hence, you should not expect your returns to go down just because there are sponsor fees.  A good forecast should bake all that in.  If there are performance hurdles or water falls, those assumptions should all be baked in with no surprises.
c.    Sponsor Investment Commits – I like to see a sponsor invest in their own deal.  I’m not hung up on how much that is really but I’d like to see it be at least the minimum for an investor or something that makes since.  If most of the partners on the sponsor team are putting up money I feel better.  Now, I know a lot of sponsors who don’t and that would not preclude me from investing with them.  Why?  Because as a sponsor, there is a ton of work involved, skill and knowledge and experiences that are brought to bear to make this a great investment, often termed “sweat equity”.  Having the sponsors put more of their own money in the deal from a symbolic standpoint is a good thing but you shouldn’t expect them to be betting the ranch with their personal funds.  Additionally, I worked with a sponsor who put together 6 deals in the past 12 months.  I can tell you his financial planner would not be advising him to invest his own money in every deal, at least not much, because he like you should be thinking about his overall financial picture.  This is akin to folks who used to put all their 401K money in their company stock.  Probably not too smart if you have your livelihood (salary / bonus) already in the deal which the sponsors essentially have as most are pursuing this on a full-time basis.  Again, it shows alignment with the other investor partners and that in general is a good thing but don’t get hung up on it.  Once you have been a sponsor you will realize they earn it.

8)    The Property Manager 
a.    Its common that a sponsor will hire a property management company to oversee the day to day operations.  Again, the sponsor will be very involved as the asset manager but looking at more of ensuring the property manager executes the business plan to add value and create a great apartment community.  Good reputation and experience is essential as the right property manager will make or break a good deal in a good market.
b.    Review the property management company that the sponsor uses or will be using on the project you are evaluating. 
c.    Check out their website and do many of the things we discussed above in #1.  Review backgrounds of the key leadership team.
d.    Do they have a track record of solid performance?
e.    How many properties do they manage, what types (classes) and sizes?  (if sponsor is focusing on class B value add apartments and they are mostly sustaining class A buildings not a good fit).  I also like one with size as they can better negotiate with vendors to cover multiple communities.
f.    A good apartment manager will also focus on “making a community”.  Studies show few residents at apartments even know their neighbor.  To improve relations and a sense of pride in the apartment community, what is the manager’s plan to improve community purpose, comradery, caring and fun for the residents?  These are qualitative factors for sure but have direct quantitative impacts such as increased resident retention, lower turnover, referrals, etc.
g.    Is this a new market / submarket for them or do they have other properties in the area?
h.    They should be focused on education, training and processes with state of the art software. 

9)    Asset Management 
a.    This is done by the sponsor
b.    I would ask the sponsor what are his key actions, plans and routines to stay on top of the apartment manager and the community.
c.    Is he in the same town?  That is not critical if he if flying in often enough to ensure the apartment manager is on top of their game.
d.    I like to see the sponsor team providing monthly emails to the investors on project status.  It could be as simple as a 4-5 bullets on what has been accomplished that past month, how they are handling any issues that came up and protecting your investment.  Are they responsive when investors have a question and do they work well with the apartment manager in quickly addressing the issues?
e.    Quarterly, you should be able to get the full financial readout from the property manager on the actual vs budget figures.  See Investor Relation and Communications schedule above.

10)    Holistic Win / Win
a.    If done right, everyone should win.  The sponsor and investor should win, the property manager should win, the residents should win, the community should win and all the support folks including the lender, broker, etc. should win. 
b.    When you are talking to the sponsor and their representatives (could be the core team) and extended team players, get a sense of how they talk about the sponsor and how the sponsor talks about his team and supporting cast.  All the integrity, character and other essential ingredients we mentioned earlier in vetting the partners should resonate loud and clear.  You want a sponsor that cares and wants everyone to win.  Yes, it may be an intangible and hard to see, but with enough conversations including going to past properties and just seeing how they are functioning, your gut instinct will tell you if this is the right sponsor to oversee your investment or not.  The great news is this, once you found a great sponsor, you can usually reduce a lot of this due diligence work on future deals and continue to ride with them…focusing more on the market and projects they are presenting to you.  Once sponsors find a philosophy, model and formula that works, its usually consistently repeated over and over.