Posted 12 months ago

Due Diligence and Learning to Say "No"

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Evaluating investments is what we do. One thing we have done well in selecting our investments is a top down approach. We want to have long term partners that we know, trust and understand their investment criteria. We review the markets they invest in and gain familiarity with how they look at opportunities. Having a solid team, trusted partner and operator working in a strong growth market that we understand reduces risk.

We can evaluate individual deals much faster and get into deals without the concern that everything is new and up in the air till proven. That is why we are careful in our selection of partners and opportunities. We shy away from and just say “no” to new partners, markets and deals as our first response. That said, we didn’t get to where we are saying no all the time, or we would have no partners or deals. So, we entertain partners first at a high level. We don’t look to do a deal or invest with them unless we do our due diligence on them, their background and experiences. See my article on ten tips to vetting a sponsor here.

That said, even with careful selection of a partner things can come up that are often not disclosed. We had a recent opportunity that we spent a lot of time evaluating, invested money in legal fees to get our sponsorship setup, talked with investors and received soft commits of up to $10m and were very close to sending out the PPM with funding instructions. As we were in the later stages of this process, we uncovered a potential low probability but high stakes financial impact to our fund and investors. The financial risk could be great, and it was hard to really evaluate the odds of it happening.

More importantly, we felt that the current operator would be very distracted dealing with this issue for an indefinite period. These investments take a lot of attention. The last thing we would want is a protracted issue that consumes our managers time and could lead to financial harm to our investors. As a new partner operator with us, we were less tolerant of the unknown and decided to walk away.

We realized that the short-term loss of an opportunity in time, effort, and cost is a small price to pay if we had invested in a long-term opportunity that we had less assurances of a positive outcome for our investors. The message for us and our investors is that we are in this for the long haul. We invest alongside them in every deal. We would love to get every investment decision right, but we know over time that we may have investments that don’t meet expectations. No one is going to be perfect. We expect to under promise and over deliver most of the time. What we are trying to avoid for sure are potential “high risk” investments that without continual due diligence we may have gone into with no turning back.

Investments in commercial real estate are not liquid. It’s not a stock where if you receive bad news you can liquidate your position and try to cut your losses. With real estate, we have the comfort of cash flow and future appreciation. The cash flow can be a buffer but if the story turns sour because we rushed into something that later bit us, our reputation suffers alongside reduced investor outcomes.

Learn to say “no” and be careful picking partners, evaluating markets and specific deals. You are always doing due diligence along the way and don’t be afraid to pull back no matter where you are in the process before you close on the property. Lost time, money and opportunity is a small price to pay for making a bad investment you may have to live with for some time.