The When, Why & How of Communicating With Your Investors
While I wrote a lot about FINDING investors for syndicating apartment building deals, I’ve not really discussed how to interact with your investors AFTER closing. It’s critically important that you communicate with your investors, for at least three reasons:
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- Common courtesy. It’s polite to keep in touch with people who funded your dream.
- To avoid surprises. Investors don’t like surprises. They also don’t like silence. If the emails and phone calls stop, it’s a giant red flag. It usually means something is wrong and the investor about to lose their money. Don’t make this mistake.
- So that you know what is going on. Having investors to “report to” forces you to pay attention to the investment. While this may create additional work for you, it’s not a bad thing. Having to track key metrics and put out reports means that you know what’s going on — a very good thing.
Now that we all agree that communicating with your investors is a good thing, let’s talk about WHAT you should communicate.
What to Communicate to Your Investors
I normally send out an email to the investors once per quarter. That email contains an Executive Summary, some supporting reports, and how much (if any) the distribution checks will be. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:
The Executive Summary should be as short as possible (since most people won’t read it if it’s long) and should cover these points:
- Income. Discuss any unusual vacancies, delinquencies, and evictions, especially if those are substantially different from your projections.
- Expenses. In this section focus on any unusual expenses that may be higher than expected.
- Other. Talk about anything major that happened. Celebrate some successes. Discuss challenges and what you’re doing about them.
The two key reports that should accompany your communication is the Profit & Loss Statement and the Balance Sheet. I’ve found that most investors don’t spend the time to read these documents, which is why the Executive Summary is so important. However, you’ll need these reports to produce your commentary, so you might as well include them for completeness.
The other report you will want to include is a bank balance report that shows the current amount of operating capital, the reserves you want to keep in the account, and the amount of cash available for distribution.
The Annual Report
At the end of the year, I put out a larger annual report that is just like a quarterly report, but it covers the entire year. I also include the plan and budgets for the following year.
When to Increase Your Communication
I normally provide a report, along with any distributions, once per quarter. If a project is stable, I might reduce that to twice per year. However, in these 3 instances, it’s important to increase the level of communication…
- In the beginning, when things are new and just starting out. The project is new, lots is happening, and the investors may be apprehensive about their investment. It’s good to check in with them more frequently.
- When there are major changes, for example, a new property manager, or lots of turnover. Let your investors know what’s going on and put them at ease.
- When things aren’t going to plan. Perhaps you haven’t been able to fill the vacancies fast enough, or the renovation is taking longer or costing more, or there have been unexpected expenses and repairs. Maybe the building is even losing money. Bottom line, you are behind on your projections. Your investors won’t make the return you projected for them, or perhaps they might even lose money.
Most real estate syndicators stop communicating when things start going badly. This is a huge mistake because it angers the investors, and if it continues, may result in lawsuits. Plus it’s just plain rude. My approach is to increase the level of communication to let the investors know what’s going on. And if, God forbid, you end up selling for a loss, they won’t be taken by surprise.
I’ve been a silent investor in projects where I rarely heard from the sponsor. In one case, the deal went bad, and the sponsor became radio silent. The investors became increasingly agitated, began to organize, and eventually sued the sponsor.
If you have investors in your deal, it’s critical that you communicate with them regularly. It’s common courtesy, keeps your investors happy (and out of court) and it gives you the discipline to know what’s going on with your project.
How do you communicate with your investors?
Let us know with a comment!