By Anthony Chara
I get this question a lot, especially, during or just after a presentation showing an apartment complex illustrating a ‘cash on cash’ return in excess of 20%.
If you went to a Commercial Broker and told them you were looking for properties with a 20% COCR, they’d do one of two things: 1. They’d tell you they would buy the property themselves if they ever found one with a 20% COCR or 2. They’d hang up on you because they’d think your expectations are unrealistic.
You probably won’t find an Apartment complex advertised with a 20% COCR. Just like the broker said, if it fell into their lap, they’d buy it. However, you can increase your chances of finding some great deals by doing a few things differently.
First off, there’s no big secret in ‘finding’ Apartment complexes for sale. Start by using the same vehicles most investors use. For instance, you can search through Loopnet.com or go to any of the major or regional Commercial Brokerage websites such as Marcus & Millichap (MarcusMillichap.com), CB Richard Ellis (CBRE.com), or Sperry Van Ness (SVN.com) just to name a few. There are many more out there.
You can also peruse local newspapers in the market you’re interested in. Remember that not all papers are created equal. Some newspapers will advertise commercial properties in the business section, not the classifieds. Another paper no one thinks about is the Wall Street Journal. They have both national and local properties advertised for sale.
Another way to find Apartments for sale is to ask Property Managers or Commercial Financiers that work in the area you’re looking to purchase. Oftentimes, they know owners who are looking for another property and have to sell their first one to move on or they know someone who’s just ready to retire.
These are just a few of the sources I use. More support is provided in my workshops and boot camps. The key to getting great Apartment deals may start with the information above, but it ends with the information below.
As I stated already, there’s no big secret in finding Apartment complexes for sale. The key is to find a great deal and here’s how I do it. The first thing I decide upon is a market in which I want to purchase. I may determine the market based on economic factors such as job growth or an expanding economy in that area. Additionally, I may decide upon the market just because it’s a place I’d like to visit on a regular basis. The following step is to interview at least 3-4 good commercial brokers in that market and create a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with at least one or two of them.
Next, here’s what I do and how I use my research. Preferably, I want to find a commercial broker that has a CCIM designation. CCIM stands for Certified Commercial Investment Member. Most CCIMs will list this designation in their internet and newspaper ads. CCIMs have gone thru extensive training on commercial property, plus, they must have a proven track record of closed deals or consultations showing extensive commercial knowledge and they must pass a comprehensive examination. I consider a CCIM equivalent to a Ph.D. By the way, you can also find CCIMs at www.CCIM.com too. It’s estimated that only 6% of the roughly 125,000 commercial brokers out there have a CCIM designation.
Once I find 5-6 brokers in a given market, with or without the CCIM designation, I call them to introduce myself. I ask them about the market conditions, recent sales in the area, and their own experience as a commercial broker. It’s amazing how much information you can get when you ask the right questions. You also get a pretty good feel for the person about whether or not you see yourself having a long-term relationship with them.
Once I have a good feel for 3-4 of the agents I’ve spoken with, I give them the criteria I’m searching for in a complex. My criteria will include the number of units, unit mix, minimum Cap Rate, price range, the quality of the complex (A, B, or C), and the area of the city. I may even mention that I’m looking for the owner to do some or all of the financing. I follow up on my phone conversations by emailing or faxing my contact information and criteria to the brokers. Then, I phone or email the brokers every 1-2 weeks to stay in contact with them. Since the brokers know exactly what I’m looking for it makes it easier for them to find something that fits my criteria. The ones that bring me deals I take care of. Obviously, they get their commission, but it’s the extra little things I do that I believe makes a difference, such as sending them a restaurant gift card to take their spouse or significant other out for a night on the town at my expense or maybe tickets to a local sporting event or bottle of wine. That way, I am always in the front of their mind anytime a good deal comes across their desk.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘Pocket Listing.’ Well, I want to be a ‘Pocket Client.’ When the broker gets a new listing, I want to be one of the few clients they call first, sometimes before they even release the details to other brokers in their own office. And that’s the key to finding great deals.
If you think about it, everyone out there has access to the same sources for deals, but it’s the people who have nurtured and cultivated their relationship with the broker that reaps the bumper crop! They will even tend to go to bat for you with the seller if you’re looking to do something other than just put down a traditional 20%-25%. They will also be in your corner helping you explain to the seller why it would be better financially for them to carry back some or the entire purchase price than to just sell the property outright and make you bring in new financing.
Even in the commercial world, it’s about relationships. Once you have those relationships established you have a much greater chance of turning an average deal into a great deal. A 10% COC return into a 20% COC return. That relationship just helped you double your cash flow. How much is that worth to you?