With the US Dollar falling and rising inflation many individual investors are looking for alternative methods to preserve and grow their capital. Apartment buildings are starting to receive a lot of interest from many investors who have little or no experience in the world of commercial real estate. Investors are now attracted to apartment building investments because of their relative security, positive cash flow and growth potential. These new investors are hungry to learn how to buy an apartment building. However, the first time buyer should do his necessary homework before actually investing his hard earned money in a multifamily property.
The last thing a new investor should do is to buy the first apartment building deal that comes across his table. In fact, in my role as a commercial property finance consultant, as soon as I hear that the investor I am speaking with has never bought or managed a multifamily building previously AND that this is the first deal that he or she has ever looked it, then I know immediately that it is a deal that will never get done. I don’t even have to look at the rent rolls or the income and expense statements. To many readers this may sound cynical or brash but it is simply the truth. And it has nothing to do with the intelligence of the investor it just simply has to do with the fact that banks will not lend money on an apartment building that is not or will not soon become profitable.
Many beginner commercial real estate buyers are under the assumption that they will somehow be able to convince their commercial mortgage broker and the commercial mortgage bank underwriters the property is such a great deal at the purchase price because there is a new mall scheduled to be opened down the street or that the neighborhood is undergoing revitalization or because a big employer is moving into the city. All of this may be true but a bank will not generally lend money on an apartment building unless it is already profitable and the bank will usually want to see at least a 20% down payment. And I don’t blame beginning investors for believing what they do. Many real estate agents and property owners will say just about anything to get a building sold. The job of the real estate agent and the property owner is to get the property sold for the most amount of money that the market will bear.
The first time apartment building buyer needs to be aware of the fact that the real estate agent selling the multifamily building represents the seller’s best interest and not his or hers. For this reason it is imperative for the first time investor to have as much education and knowledge going into the deal as possible. The first skill the buyer must have to separate the junk deals from the deals that will be profitable, cash flowing apartment buildings. He or she should begin by taking all or some of the steps below:
- Get a book education first. Learn about the industry and terminology by reading many commercial real estate investment books Stay away from the books that over promise and under deliver. It if seems to easy to be true then you know that it is.
- Develop your analytical skills. You need to be concentrating on Debt Service Coverage Ratios, CAP rates and Internal Rates of Return. You don’t want to be thinking emotionally about the investment. This does not mean that you should eschew creative financing and acquisition strategies. It just means that these strategies and methods should be firmly based and tested in the real world.
- Network and forge relationships with commercial real estate professionals and investors. Every major metropolitan area has at least one very active real estate investment club.
- Build a “master mind” team of advisers that will help you evaluate your investment decisions. This team could include attorneys, accountants, appraisers, realtors, mortgage brokers, business men and other entrepreneurs.