The Ultimate Guide to Investing In Real Estate Syndications
I first learned about real estate investing (specifically real estate syndications) at a local real estate conference here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had been a real estate investor for about ten years at that point, mainly through an investment property or rental properties, and I had never heard of the term “real estate syndication” before.
Can you imagine? Ten years. And in that time, I’d never heard of real estate syndications.
But in fact, that’s pretty common. Until fairly recently, SEC regulations did not allow for real estate syndication opportunities to be publicly advertised. Thus, you had to be part of the “inner circle” (i.e., you had to know someone who was doing a deal, in order to invest in one).
Luckily, the SEC has since seen the huge benefits with these real estate deals and now allows certain real estate investment opportunities to be publicly advertised, hence allowing more real estate investors to learn about and invest in these opportunities.
In this guide, we’ll go over all the information you need to start with real estate investing (specifically syndications). You’ll learn what they are, the returns you can expect, the risks involved, and more. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:
Real Estate Syndications 101
- What is a real estate syndication?
- How does a real estate syndication work?
- Can you give me an example of a real estate syndication?
- What are the different types of real estate syndications?
Investing in Real Estate Syndications
- Why invest in a real estate syndication?
- What are the returns like in a real estate syndication?
- What’s the minimum amount I can invest?
- How long is a real estate syndication?
- Who can invest in real estate syndications?
- Can I invest in a real estate syndication with retirement funds?
- What are the risks of investing in real estate syndications?
- What about taxes?
- What’s the process for real estate investing via syndication?
- What happens after I invest in a real estate syndication?
Finding Real Estate Syndication Opportunities
- Where can I find real estate syndication opportunities?
- How do private real estate syndications compare to real estate crowdfunding sites?
- What is Crown Capital’s role in all this?
- Where can I learn more?
Real Estate Syndications 101
What is a real estate syndication?
Let’s start with the basics. The term syndication simply means the pooling of resources. A real estate syndication is when a group of real estate investors comes together to invest in real estate assets together like apartment buildings. Instead of buying a bunch of small properties individually, the group of people come together and buy a large apartment building deal together.
Let’s say I have $50,000 to invest. I could take it and invest it in residential properties myself, but I would have to set aside time to find a property, put it under contract, do the inspections, run the numbers, get the loan, then find the tenant and become the property manager or find property managers.
But, maybe I don’t have that kind of time or interest. This is where most people stop. They figure, real estate investing is too hard and too much work, so they stop there.
But, what few people know is that real estate syndications are alternative real estate investments that allow you to still put your money into real estate without having to do the work of finding or becoming a property manager yourself.
With a real estate syndication, I can invest that $50,000 into a real estate syndication as a passive investor. So I put in my $50,000, maybe you have $50,000 to invest, someone else puts in $100,000, and on and on.
By pooling our resources, we now have enough to buy not just a rental property, but something bigger, like an apartment building.
As passive investors, we don’t have to do any of the day-to-day work of managing the property. A lead syndicator or sponsor team does the day-to-day management (i.e., all the active work), and in return, they get a share of the profits. (More on this in a bit.)
When done right, apartment building investing via real estate syndications are a win-win for everyone involved.
How does a real estate syndication work?
Here are the nuts and bolts of the real estate investing journey you will experience when you decide to invest in multifamily rental properties using the power of a syndication.
There are two main groups of people who come together to form a real estate syndication: the general partners and the limited partner passive investors.
The general partners (GPs) are the people who put the real estate syndication together. They do all the hard work of searching the real estate market, finding and vetting the property and creating the business plan. Essentially, they do the work that you would be doing as the owner and landlord of a rental property, just on a massive scale.
The limited partners (LPs) are the passive investors, who invest their own money into the deal. The limited partners have no active responsibilities in managing the asset.
A real estate syndication can only work when general partners and limited partners come together. The general partners find a great deal and put together a great team to execute the intended business plan. The limited partners invest their own money into the deal, which makes it possible to acquire the property and fund the renovations.
Together, the general partners and limited partners join an entity (usually an LLC), and that entity holds the underlying asset. Because the LLC is a pass-through entity, you get the tax benefits of direct ownership (more on this in a bit).
Once the real estate investing deal closes, the general partners work closely with the property management team to improve the property according to the business plan. During this time, the limited partner investors receive passive income. This comes in regular positive cash flow distribution checks (usually every month).
Once all the planned renovations are complete, the general partners sell the property, return the limited partners’ capital, and split the profits.
Can you give me an example of a real estate syndication?
Let’s say that Jane and John are working together to find multifamily real estate properties like an apartment building or community in Dallas, Texas. They want to diversify their investment portfolio. Jane lives in Dallas, so she has some knowledge of the local real estate market. She then works with a real estate agent in the area to find a great apartment building deal that meets their criteria. After looking at a bunch of properties with their real estate agent, they find an apartment building with a purchase price at $10 million.
John takes the lead on the underwriting (i.e., analyzing all the numbers to make sure that the deal will be profitable), and they determine that this property has a ton of potential, making it a great opportunity for multifamily real estate investors.
Since Jane and John don’t have enough money to put a down payment and to purchase the $10-million multifamily property themselves, they decide to look into a different real estate investing strategy and put together a real estate syndication offering. They create the business plan and investment summary for prospective successful real estate investors and work with a real estate attorney to structure the real estate investing deal.
Then, they look for limited partner passive investors who are interested in apartment building investing. Each passive investor invests at least $50,000 of their private money into the deal. They continue raising money until they have enough to cover the down payment, as well as the cost of the renovations on this real estate investment property.
Once they close on the deal, Jane works closely with the property management company to improve the apartment buildings and get the renovations done on budget and on schedule (much like flipping single-family houses).
During this time, Jane and John send out monthly updates, as well as monthly cash flow distribution checks (passive income), to their passive investors.
When the renovations are complete, Jane and John determine that it’s a good time to sell since the property values are now higher than before and the real estate market is hot. They sell the property for $15 million after just 3 years. They return all the other investors’ original capital, and they split the profits from the sale with the passive investors at the 70/30 split that was agreed upon at the outset of the syndication (70% to investors, 30% to Jane and John).
What are the different real estate syndications?
There are lots of different types of real estate syndications. There are real estate syndications that focus on multifamily, self-storage, manufactured home parks, raw land development, hotels, student housing, warehouses, commercial property, and more. Some real estate syndications are for ground-up construction. Some are for buy-and-hold (i.e., buy an asset that’s already stabilized, and hold it for a number of years). Diversified real estate portfolios include various asset types, lengths, and expected returns when it comes to savvy real estate investing.
The real estate syndications that we do most often are value-add apartment buildings. Value-add multifamily investing deals involve assets that need a little love. Like flipping houses, these multifamily properties have seen better days and need some updates.
For example, we might purchase properties or invest in an apartment building whose units have not been updated in ten years. The kitchens are all dated; the carpets are worn, and the landscaping needs some work. These types of renovations make the market value of these multi-unit properties desirable.
Real estate cycles come and go, but by making those improvements, we can increase the rent, which increases the income of the multifamily property and thus, impact the market value.
Investing in Commercial Real Estate Syndications
Why invest in a real estate syndication?
Okay, now that you’ve got a decent understanding of how real estate syndications work, let’s talk about what’s in it for you. There are a number of reasons that passive investors decide to invest in real estate syndications.
Here are a few of the top reasons:
- You are interested in real estate investing, but don’t have the time or interest in being a landlord.
- You want to invest in physical assets like apartment buildings (as opposed to paper assets, like stocks).
- You want to invest in something that’s more stable than the stock market.
- You want the tax benefits that come with real estate investing
- You want to receive regular cash flow distribution checks or passive income.
- You want to invest with your retirement funds.
- You want your money to make a difference in local communities.
- You want to diversify your real estate portfolio.
What are real estate investors’ returns like in a real estate syndication?
Let’s talk about one of the things people are most curious about – the returns you can expect by investing passively in real estate syndications.
There are two types of returns that you can expect from investing in a real estate syndication.
The first type of return is a cash flow return, which you would receive as a check or direct deposit either monthly or quarterly from the time the deal closes through the time the asset is sold. This is passive income, as a passive real estate investor, you do not do any of the property management.
The second type of return is a split of the profits upon the sale of the asset. The exact split depends on each deal’s specific deal structure.
Typically, for the real estate syndication deals that we do, the cash flow returns total 8-10% per year. So, if you were to invest $100,000, you could expect about $8,000 per year in cash flow returns or about $667 per month.
Then, at the sale of the property, you could expect an additional 40-60% ($40-$60,000), in addition to receiving your original capital back.
Altogether, when counting the $8,000 per year for five years, plus the, say, $60,000 at the sale, you would have received a total of $100,000 in returns over the course of five years, thus doubling your money in that time. When counting the profits from the sale, your average annual return over the course of those five years would have been 20%.
What’s the minimum amount I can invest in a real estate investment like real estate syndications?
Typically, we see a minimum of $50,000 for the real estate deals that we do.
Your money will be illiquid during the length of the hold time (i.e., you can’t withdraw it until the asset is sold). Thus, you should only invest with funds that you don’t need access to for a while and can afford to lose. Don’t invest your monthly mortgage payment and think you can just take out the amount you need each month.
How long is a real estate syndication?
While each real estate syndication is different, we typically see projected hold times of 5-7 years, sometimes longer.
This means that, for a real estate syndication with a 5-year projected hold time, you should prepare to have your money in the project for 5 years. You will not be able to take your money out until the asset is sold. This is typical with real estate deals like syndications.
Who can invest in real estate syndications?
A large majority of real estate syndications are open to accredited investors only which means they are an active real estate investor and have the knowledge and a reputation within the real estate industry. Some are also open to non-accredited, sophisticated real estate investors (i.e., investors who can demonstrate that they understand real estate investing, syndications, and their risks).
In order to be considered an accredited real estate investor, you must meet at least one of two requirements. The first requirement is a net worth requirement. You must have at least $1 million in net worth, not counting your primary home.
The second requirement is an income requirement. You must make $200,000 per year as an individual, or $300,000 jointly with your spouse, have made this amount or more for each of the last two years, and intend to make this amount or more this year.
If you meet either one or both of these requirements, then you are an accredited real estate investor.
If you’re not yet an accredited investor, there are still some real estate syndication opportunities out there for you. However, you may need to look a little harder for them. This is because the opportunities for non-accredited real estate investors cannot be publicly advertised.
What are the fees involved with real estate investments?
There are two main types of fees that are paid to the general partners when you invest in a real estate syndication.
The first is an acquisition fee (typically 1-3% of the purchase price), which is paid out upon the deal closing. This is for all the work the general partners have put into the acquisition of the property.
The second type of fee is an asset or property management fee, which is an ongoing fee (usually 1-3%) that is deducted from the cash flow or your monthly income. For the ongoing work of managing the asset, this is to pay the property manager.
As a passive investor, you don’t have to write a separate check for either of these fees. These fees are already part of the underwriting. So if a deal deck says projects an 8% annual return, that’s already accounting for the fees involved. You just write your $50,000 check, and that’s it.
Can I invest in a real estate syndication with retirement funds?
Yes! In fact, this is one way that many passive real estate investors get started with real estate syndications.
To invest in a real estate syndication with retirement funds, you need to first rollover your existing retirement funds (401k’s, IRAs, etc.) into a self-directed IRA account.
We like Provident Trust Group for their low fees and great customer service, but there are many self-directed IRA companies out there. (Note: My personal self-directed IRA account is with Provident. I am not being paid to refer them to you; I just really like them.)
Once your money is in the self-directed IRA account, you can choose what investment property you want to invest it into, and the self-directed IRA custodian will invest it on your behalf.
For a real estate syndication, you will need to provide your self-directed IRA custodian with copies of the legal documents for the syndication (private placement memorandum, operating agreement, and subscription agreement). Then, they will send in the funds on your behalf.
Any returns you make on the real estate investment must go directly back into the self-directed IRA account, never into your personal accounts.
What are the risks of investing in real estate syndications?
All this sounds great, but what about the risks? Great question. After all, a real estate syndication is an investment, and no investment is a guarantee.
One of the biggest risks is the risk of execution. When you invest in a real estate syndication, you’ll see glossy marketing packages, and the sponsors will answer your questions with lofty ideals.
However, when the rubber meets the road, the sponsor team needs to execute the real estate business plan in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, we invest only with sponsors who have a proven track record and who prioritize capital preservation, so we know they will protect your investments and will do what they say they’re going to do.
Another potential risk is changing real estate market conditions. No one can predict what market conditions will be like at the end of a project’s hold time. Maybe the entire country will be in a recession. Maybe the local economy will be in a lull. This may mean no one wants to purchase apartment buildings or rental property.
This is why it’s so important to ensure that the loan provides some buffer time. If the projected hold time is 5 years, make sure that the loan term is for at least that long, and ideally longer than 5 years, so there’s a buffer in case we need to hold the property longer than intended.
At the end of the day, as a limited partner passive investor, your liability in the real estate syndication is limited. That means that, at worst, you could lose your original investment, but you could not lose more than that (e.g., you can’t lose your house).
What about taxes?
When you invest in a real estate syndication as a passive investor, you are a part-owner of the underlying asset. That means that you get your share of the tax benefits.
One of the biggest tax benefits is accelerated depreciation through cost segregation.
When you invest in a residential real estate or rental property, you can depreciate the rental property on a schedule of 27.5 years.
When you invest in commercial real estate syndication, the sponsors will often order a cost segregation study. What this means is that a cost segregation expert will come and take stock of all the assets on the property – light fixtures, carpeting, etc. – and create a cost segregation report. That report shows which assets are eligible for accelerated depreciation.
For example, instead of depreciating the carpeting over thirty or so years, you might be able to depreciate it over 5 years. This accelerated depreciation can front-load all the depreciation benefits into the first few years of ownership, which is perfect for a real estate syndication that projects a hold time of just a few years.
What’s the process for investing in a real estate syndication?
Here are the basic steps for investing in a real estate syndication, once you’ve defined your real estate investing goals and found a sponsor you want to invest with.
- The sponsor announces that the deal is open for funding, usually via email.
- You review the investment summary deck and decide to invest.
- You submit your soft reserve, telling the sponsor how much you’d like to invest (kind of like a down payment on a house).*
- The sponsor holds an investor webinar, where you can get more information and ask questions.
- The sponsor confirms your spot in the deal and sends you the PPM (private placement memorandum).
- After signing the PPM, you wire in your funds or send in a check.
- The sponsor confirms that your funds have been received.
- The sponsor notifies you once the deal closes and lets you know what to expect next.
*Real estate syndications are almost always filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thus, sponsors use a soft reserve to help them determine who’s interested in investing.
By submitting a soft reserve, you are telling the sponsor you’re interested in the deal and want to invest X amount. The soft reserve does not guarantee you a spot in the deal, nor does it lock you in. You can always back out or change your mind later.
Pro tip: If you’re thinking about investing in a deal but aren’t sure whether you want to invest $50,000 or $100,000, put in a soft reserve for $100,000. This holds your spot in the deal.
If you decide later that you only want to invest $50,000, you can easily decrease your investment amount. However, if you had put in a soft reserve for $50,000 and later wanted to increase it to $100,000, you might not be able to increase your soft reserve amount if the syndication is already over-subscribed.
What happens after I invest in a real estate syndication?
After you’ve sent in your funds for a real estate syndication deal, your active participation is done. Now you can sit back and wait for the cash flow to roll in.
Depending on the particular deal, you may receive either monthly or quarterly cash flow distributions, and they may start immediately, or not for a few months.
Regardless, you should start receiving monthly updates as soon as the deal closes. These monthly updates will include information on the latest occupancy and progress on the renovations.
Every quarter, you will receive a detailed financial report on the property, and every spring during tax season, you will receive a Schedule K-1 for your taxes, which will report your share of the income and losses for the property.
Finding Real Estate Syndication Opportunities
Where can I find real estate syndication opportunities?
As mentioned above, they cannot publicly advertise many real estate syndication opportunities. The ones that you see publicly advertised are for accredited real estate investors only.
So, where do you find real estate syndication opportunities?
You can do a Google search, but how do you know that the real estate investment opportunities that pop up are legitimate ones, put together by experienced teams with strong track records, who will safeguard your money over a period of several years?
The answer is, you don’t. It’s extremely hard to find great real estate syndication opportunities just by doing a few Google searches.
The best way to find real estate syndication opportunities is to get out there and talk to people in the real estate investing space, particularly those in the real estate syndication space. This community is quite small, and once you get connected, you’ll easily be able to find sponsors and real estate syndication opportunities that fit with your real estate investing goals.
How do private real estate syndications compare to real estate crowdfunding sites?
In the past few years, real estate crowdfunding sites have become quite popular and is normally pretty easy to get started with investing passively in real estate. Sites like RealtyMogul, RealtyShares, and Fundrise have helped millions of people invest passively in real estate.
Real estate crowdfunding sites can be a good place to find real estate syndication offerings. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, most of these platforms require that you be an accredited investor in order to invest in their real estate syndication offerings.
Some of these platforms offer REITs (real estate investment trusts) another type of investment strategy as an alternative for non-accredited investors. Typically, you can invest in these REITs with a low minimum investment (you can invest in Fundrise’s eREITs for just $500 or half of a mortgage payment).
If you’re investing in a REIT, just be aware that you are not investing in a real estate syndication. Rather, you are investing in a fund. It is still a real estate investment, just a little different.
When you invest in a REIT, you’re investing in a company that buys real estate; you don’t have direct ownership of the underlying asset yourself, like in a real estate syndication. You would likely still get good returns, you would just be investing in a bunch of assets rather than a single one, and you wouldn’t get the same tax benefits as with a real estate syndication. Many real estate investors choose this path to get started. But, it doesn’t matter which real estate investment you decide to start with.
Regardless, if you’re just starting out, you should definitely check out some real estate crowdfunding sites to see what they’re all about.
What is Crown Capital’s role in all this?
Here at Crown Capital, we know how hard it can be to find great real estate syndication opportunities. So, that’s exactly what we do. We connect investors with great real estate syndications and we know all about real estate investing strategies.
We work hard to find the best real estate markets to invest in and partner with experienced sponsor teams in those markets. We’ve been in this space for a while, so we know most of the larger players and work hard to vet all the sponsor partners we work with, to make sure they have a strong track record and know what they’re doing.
Once we find a deal with a great sponsor, a deal we’d invest in personally, we partner with the sponsor and open up that real estate syndication opportunity to our investors, who soon become successful real estate investors.
Our investors don’t pay any fees by working with us. We are merely the conduit between our investors and the sponsors. The main benefit we provide to our investors is in the real estate investing experience.
We provide a lot of resources to our investors and make ourselves available to our investors, to answer any questions along the way (sponsors can often be busy with the acquisition of the property and might not have time to answer investor questions). We promise if this is your first deal; you are going to have questions.
We also invest in these deals right alongside our investors. In fact, we never open up a deal to our investors that we wouldn’t invest in ourselves.
If you’re interested in investing passively in real estate syndications, a great first step is to join the Crown Capital Investor Club. After we get to know you, we’ll help you find real estate syndication opportunities that meet your real estate investing goals and hopefully help you through your first deal.
Where can I learn more about real estate investing?
While this guide is a great start, there are still tons of things to learn before you can confidently invest $50,000 or more into a 5-year-long real estate syndication. How do you know whether a deal is good? What happens if a deal goes south? How do you decode all the lingo in an investment summary?
If you’re serious about real estate investing, especially in real estate syndications, and want to learn all the ins and outs so that you can invest confidently in your first real estate syndication, we’ve created a course for exactly that.
Real Estate Investing Works for You
Real estate syndications are a great way to invest in real estate without having to deal with the hassles of finding a real estate agent, finding single-family homes or multifamily property, negotiating deals, being a landlord, or finding a property management company to manage your rental property. As a limited partner passive investor in a real estate syndication, you can sit back and collect passive cash flow every month without having to worry about renovations, tenant turnover, or broken toilets.
That being said, there’s a LOT to learn when you first invest in real estate syndications. Because most real estate syndications are for commercial properties, there’s a lot to learn in the way of vetting properties, underwriting, and sponsor teams. There’s also a lot of due diligence you must do in researching markets and finding good real estate syndication opportunities.
After ten years of real estate investing specifically in rental properties, I can say that I’m SUPER happy being a passive investor in real estate syndications. I don’t have to do any of the work, and I get all the benefits of owning real estate. Sometimes, the monthly income from my syndication investments are even better than those from my personal rental properties.
Of course, investing in real estate syndications isn’t right for everyone. I hope this guide has given you some further insight into what real estate syndications are all about, so you can decide for yourself whether they’re right for you.
If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to us anytime.