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The #1 Way To Find Great Apartment Building Deals

by Michael Blank on March 3, 2014 · 15 comments

  
Great Apartment Building Deals

If you’re a newbie investor interested in investing in apartment buildings, you might be wondering how to go about finding deals.

Some gurus who will teach you to market to probates, send direct mail to apartment owners, or network with attorneys. All of these tactics can work. However, I’ve found that there is one specific tactic that is most helpful for me when looking for deals. So, without further ado…

The # 1 Way to Find Apartment Building Deals

The best and most efficient way to find great apartment building deals is through a good network of commercial real estate (CRE) brokers.

CRE brokers make it their business to find deals. The good ones send postcards and letters to apartment building owners and build the relationship years before an owner wants to sell. They network extensively and beat the pavement to get listings and buyers.

For example, a Marcus & Millichap broker is offering to do an informal “appraisal” of my buildings to assess what they’re worth. All he’s asking for is the financials to do so, no strings attached.

Smart. We get to know each other and maybe start to trust each other. He may gain a listing down the road, or I may be one of his buyers.

Unfortunately, most brokers are not that good. But the few that are that good are worth their weight in gold.

I remember when I was marketing for deals in Texas after taking my first apartment building boot camp. While I did send out letters (a lot of work, and I didn’t get a single deal out of several months of marketing!), I focused heavily on cold-calling CRE brokers. Over several weeks of this, I noticed that a few brokers actually took me serious and had deals on a more regular basis and communicated frequently, while most did none of these things. I found one broker in particular, who fed me deals almost on a weekly basis.

Focus your efforts on finding just two to three brokers who are prolific deal-makers and who take you seriously, and you are set for the rest of your real estate investing career.

How do You Find Good CRE Brokers?

One of the best ways to find potential brokers to work with is on loopnet.com. OK, I hear you saying “loopnet is worthless for finding deals,” and that is mostly true, but it’s a gold mine for finding good CRE brokers.

I go on www.loopnet.com (it’s free to create an account) and then I search for the kind of buildings I want to buy. I create a spreadsheet and capture the contact info of each of the CRE brokers who have listings. After doing several, I see some brokers over and over again, and I track how many listings a broker has. The more listings, the better.

I then cold-call the brokers. I normally say something like “I saw your listing on loopnet, and that deal doesn’t really work for me, but here’s what I’m looking for. What else do you have?” I may tell him what I’m looking for and learn a little about him too. Then I see how he interacts with me and what his deal flow is.

I find an in-person meeting is a good next step if you think the broker is one of the better ones.

I track all of this activity. Over time, you see a few brokers bubble to the top.

Related: The One Real Estate Investing “Secret” the Gurus Don’t Want You to Know

The Key to Maintaining Good Deal Flow

In addition to finding the few brokers that will feed you deals,  it is important to be responsive when they do send you a deal. Nothing cools a relationship faster than a lack of response.

What I mean by “response” is that you respond to the broker with feedback about EVERY deal they send you. This means you have to get fast at analyzing a deal. But it’s not enough to just answer the question “is it a deal or not?” (because 99% of deals are not based on the asking price!) the real question to answer is “what is the MOST I would pay for this, and why?” because that is what is most helpful to the broker. Using my deal analyzer spreadsheet, I’ve gotten my first analysis down from 4 hours to about 15 minutes – very useful.

Over time, the broker will get to know your criteria better. He may try to find deals that fit your criteria. At a minimum, though, he’ll start sending you only those deals that he thinks will be a fit.

Focus on building relationships with 2-3 good commercial real estate brokers, respond to them quickly when they do send you a deal and you will have more deals that you can handle.

Related: Having Trouble Finding Real Estate Deals? Re-visit the Basics!

What’s YOUR best way to find apartment building deals?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrian Tilley March 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

Great article. Thanks for actually telling us how to find the good brokers!

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Michael Blank March 3, 2014 at 11:54 am

Thanks Adrian, glad you found it useful!

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Kay Khan March 3, 2014 at 9:27 am

Love it, Michael you saved me from another “guru secret ” course. I am still educating myself and in ” Paralysis of Analysis” and waiting for “window to open” stage. Thanks for sharing the info.

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Michael Blank March 3, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hi Kay … it’s tough to wait for the right conditions. My advice: pick the three things you know you should do next, and then start doing them. When you knocked ‘em out, put three new ones on the board, and repeat. After several weeks, you will be amazed at (1) how many doors have opened and (2) how much you achieved. What are the next 3 things on your list?

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Sharon Tzib March 3, 2014 at 9:29 am

Great article, Michael. I’m just getting into the apartment building niche, so I’m curious – why do you say Loopnet is useless for finding deals? Thanks!

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Michael Blank March 3, 2014 at 11:58 am

OK, maybe I was exaggerating a bit to make a point -;) It’s not entirely useless. The thing is, once a deal shows up on Loopnet it’s like a last resort for the good commercial real estate broker. Their FIRST approach is to send the deal to their extensive buyer’s list first, and if that fails, they cast their net a little wider. But that’s usually have everyone else has passed over the deal. However, having poo-poo’d Loopnet a bit, by all means, use it as a source for leads!

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RoyN March 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Sharon:

Depending on the market (size, activity) most apartment buildings (16 – 20+) units are sold via word of mouth … either thought a direct relationship with the Vendor or, as Michael indicated, a broker shops it to her/his buyers list. If a building makes it onto MLS, loopnet, ICX, or whatever listing service it is most probably not a deal (at least not at the asking price).

Now, there are always exceptions. An attractive small building here (12 units) sold via and MLS listing a few years ago, but this was a case of an inherited property and new owner who wanted it sold {and contacted the first real estate broker they came across}.

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Sharon Tzib March 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hey Michael and Roy – thanks for the info. Good to know.

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hunterhewett March 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Awesome advice Michael. This idea of going to loopnet and looking for desired buildings but solely for the purpose of getting the brokers contact info is gold. It’s exactly how I bought two of my unlisted deals, from a broker I found through loopnet. Those buildings were unlisted (on MLS or loopnet or anywhere else) but because i’d built rapport with the broker, I was presented those deals.

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James March 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

Hi Michael,

Do you think the brokers would be ok, if you have your own agent representing you for the deals that they are offering ? Of do they try to take the full commission for the buyers that they send the list to ?

James

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Michael Blank March 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

This depends. The commercial guys are a bit funny about this. I’ve found that some say they won’t split any commissions with a buyer agent. Actually, most say this. They’re a bit arrogant in that way, but it looks like they can get away with it. Best advice is, before you let your agent get too involved with a deal is to always ask upfront. “I have a client who’s looking at an asset like this, and he’s retained me to pre-qualify these kinds of deals. What is your commission split?” something like that ….

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Paul Timmins March 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Michael
Great article.
I will add go to IREM.org locate 5 Property Managers in the area begin conversations with them, ask if they know anything going on the market.
If they manage a portfolio of properties for owners the will be the first person to know an owner wants to sell. If the first call is to you there is no broker yet…
Paul

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Seth Williams March 6, 2014 at 9:47 am

Excellent article Michael. I was just talking with someone about this exact subject earlier this week. It was great to see your input on how to pursue brokers and deals. Thanks for sharing!

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Danny March 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

“”pick the three things you know you should do next, and then start doing them. ” That advice alone is SOLID / GOLD. Great article Michael.

I saw a 6 unit in a highly highly sought after and desirable part of the city on Loopnet. Its presented as a “value Ad” deal. Apparently the rents are below market. I am curious as to why / how come such a deal would end up on loopnet. Reason is, i know that market well and deals like that are swallowed up with the 1st day. At this time, there is no mention of price but the brokers are bringing in potential buyers to look at the building and offer submission will be later. Would you have any clue why they chose this route for a highly desirable building in a highly desirable area? or is this the normal rote of doing things?

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Bilgefisher March 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Mike,

Thanks for the approach here. I think many folks like myself have some rental properties, but keep eying those commercial buildings. This is a very helpful step.

Jason

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