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Syndication Investing During a Recession

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Syndication Investing During a Recession
Investing in real estate during a recession makes many people feel like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. For others, it’s an exciting opportunity.

In my 30 years of real estate investing, I’ve seen my share of market cycles and felt the pain they deliver, but I managed to get through all of them without losing any of my investor’s money. Losing my own, on the other hand—well, that’s a different story!

Most at-risk during times like this are the investments you’ve already made. If you are invested with the right sponsor, who implemented the right structure, you’ll stack the deck in your favor for a good outcome. Thanks to recent economic events, it probably won’t be the outcome you planned for, but one that you can live with, all things considered.

But what about new investments? I’ve found that the best investments are ones made at the trough of an adverse cycle, and ones made during the initial climb back up. A notable example is when I bought 120 houses in the San Francisco Bay Area from 2010 to 2012 at the depth of the last cycle. When I sold them 5-6 years later, they had gone up in value by 2-1/2 times. That trade underscores the importance of timing. This cycle isn’t likely to duplicate that result, but it could present some interesting opportunities.

So, what about investing in a passive real estate syndication now? Making the right decision is more important than ever. That means that BiggerPockets’ launch of my new book is perfect timing (The Hands-Off Investor: An Insider’s Guide to Investing in Passive Real Estate Syndications). It is critical that you invest with the right syndication sponsors and in the right real estate. This book will show you how to do both.

In talking with our investors about the current state of affairs and how they are planning their investment strategy from the short to medium term, we’ve heard responses ranging from hoarding cash out of absolute fear to those who view this as a chance to take advantage of opportunities that arise from the ashes, to just about everywhere in between. Where do you find yourself on that spectrum?



I have been in the business since 1997 and was heavy in real estate in 2009. I had several ground up projects I had just completed. I was in the process of converting the construction loans to perm financing and all lenders went dark. Not only did they go dark but they started calling the loans. I had $35 million in loans at 9% and close to $300k going out each month to keep the properties going. The Fed was nowhere to be found and there was no talk of forbearance. I was very fortunate as I had cash, great cashflow, I pulled all my equity out through the construction loans and all my loans were non-recourse and guaranteed by the entity holding the property so the lenders had to work with me. I funded all the deals on my own so no investors were at risk. Others were not so fortunate and the banks as you know were foreclosing on properties left and right. I finally persuaded the banks to extend the loans and sold through all my properties over the next two years so everything worked out but it was definitely a scary time and a great learning experience. I had never been through anything like that and didn't even know what a work out was prior to 2009. I continued to do deals and develop properties even during that period as I had cash and cashflow so even though these deals were technically in default and in work out a few other banks were still lending.

Fast forward to today. This is a very different environment mainly because of the moves on the part of the Fed and the Treasury. They are not going to let the banks, credit and debt markets collapse like they did last time. Especially given the fact that Neel Kashcari is largely influencing the policy makers as he had a front row see at the treasury in 2008-2009.

The only caveat is we do not know how long this is going to last and what the real and lasting effects will be on the consumer. The longer this goes the more likely things will take longer to recover. What we do know is there are always opportunities in every economic cycle. There will be opportunities in retail and office if you have the stomach and the capital. There will likely be several multifamily properties that will take a hit if the shutdown continues into June or July. Storage will most likely weather the storm and continue to perform however new developments may take much longer to fill so there may be some opportunities there. Mobile home parks are also very recession resistant and given the unemployment benefits the Fed is backing up the states with they should continue to perform. Industrial is booming right now due to the rise of e-commerce but you need to pick your spots as the old "build it and they will fill it" doesn't work everywhere when it comes to industrial.

Personally I am opportunistic so it's a bit too early for me to jump unless its a really compelling deal. Investors are eager. I get calls every day from people looking to deploy capital. These are relationships I've had for years and they have all been sitting on cash waiting for a time like this. What I have found is those in my network who are liquid (over $100 million) are not concerned and are ready to deploy but they are looking for much more yield than 2 months ago. I have also found that less sophisticated investors especially those who have not been through 2009 are much more conservative and are not comfortable investing in anything right now.


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