You’re likely familiar with fix-n-flips. Who hasn’t seen an HGTV episode or envisioned a brand new kitchen in their home?
When flippers take on a new project, they look for a home that could use a little love. They see that with a new kitchen remodel and even the addition of a 3rd bedroom off the back of the house, along with the beautiful tile accents that are popular right now, this home could be worth a lot more.
They do the math and see that with an investment of capital into these renovations, they can stand to make that capital back and then some if they sell the property after.
This is an example of a value-add real estate investment project.
Real estate investors will either grab their tool belts and do repairs, or manage multiple contractors and budgets. This is the active investing version of a value-add investment.
Remember the difference between active and passive real estate investing we discussed? Well, value-add investing in multifamily properties is the passive investing version of this strategy.
Let’s dive into how value-add investing works for multifamily real estate properties.
In the case of single-family homes, the process of buying a run-down property, remodeling it, and then selling it for profit, is commonly referred to as fix-and-flip. Your sweat equity and ability to see a diamond in the rough is rewarded monetarily, and the new owner gets an updated, move-in ready home.
Value-add multifamily real estate deals follow a similar model, but on a massive scale. Hundreds of units get renovated over years at a time instead of just one single-family home over a few months.
A great value-add property may have peeling paint, outdated appliances, or overgrown landscaping, which all affect the curb appeal and the initial impression that a potential renter will form. Simple, cosmetic upgrades can attract more qualified renters and increase the income the property produces.
In value-add properties, improvements have two goals:
Common value-add renovations can include individual unit upgrades, such as:
In addition, adding value to exteriors and shared spaces often helps to increase the sense of community:
On top of all that, adding value can also take the form of increasing efficiencies:
The basic fix-and-flip of single-family homes is pretty familiar to most people, but when it comes to hundreds of units at once, the renovation schedule and logistics aren’t as intuitive. Questions arise around how to renovate property while people are living there and how many units can be improved at a time.
When renovating a multifamily property, the vacant units are first. In a 100-unit complex, a 5% vacancy rate means there are five empty units, which is where renovations will begin.
Once those five units are complete and as each existing tenant’s lease comes due for renewal, they are offered the opportunity to move into a freshly renovated unit. Usually, tenants are more than happy with the upgraded space and happy to pay a little extra.
Once tenants vacate their old units, renovations ensue, and the process continues to repeat until most or all of the units have been updated.
During this process, some tenants do move away, and it’s important for projects to account for a temporary increase in vacancy rates due to turnover and new leases.
When done well, value-add strategies benefit all parties involved. Through renovations, we provide tenants a more aesthetically pleasing property, with updated appliances and more attractive community space. By doing so, the property becomes more valuable, allowing higher rental rates and increased equity, which makes investors happy too.
The property-beautification process and the fact that renovated property is more attractive to tenants is probably straightforward. But let’s dive into why value-add investing is a great strategy for investors.
To fully appreciate value-add investments, we must first understand their counterparts, yield plays. In a yield play, investors buy a stabilized asset and hold it for the monthly cash flow and potential future profits.
Yield play investments are where a currently-cash-flowing-property that’s in decent shape is purchased. The property provides a recurring stream of income from the rents collected – the yield. There is obviously a hope to sell it at some later date for a small profit, but there is no business plan to renovate, force appreciation, improve the asset and realize a larger gain at sale. Yield play investors hold property in anticipation of potential market increases, but there’s always the chance of experiencing a flat or down market instead.
Value plays and yield plays are different. In a value-add investment, significant work (i.e., renovations) takes place to increase the value of the property and doing such improvements carry a level of risk.
However, value-add deals also come with a ton of potential upside since the investors hold all the cards. Through physical action steps that improve the property and increase its value, value-add investors don’t just hold the asset hoping for market increases, they force increases through improving the asset, raising rents and lowering expenses.
Through property improvements, income is increased, thus also increasing the equity in the deal (remember, commercial properties are valued based on how much income they generate, not on comps, like single-family homes), which allows investors much more control over the investment than in a yield play.
Of course, a hybrid yield + value-add investment is ideal. This is where an asset gets improved, cash on cash yields are high and the market increases simultaneously. Investors have control over the value-add renovation portion and the market growth adds appreciation.
Now, before you get too giddy about the potential of a hybrid investment, there are risks associated with any value-add deal.
In multifamily value-add investments, common risks include:
When evaluating deals as potential investments, look for sponsors who have capital preservation at the forefront of the plan and who have a number of risk mitigation strategies in place. These may include:
Value-add investments can be powerful vehicles of wealth, but they also come with serious risks. This is why risk mitigation strategies are important – to protect investor capital at all costs.
No investment is risk-free. However, when something, despite its risks, provides great benefits to the community AND investors, it becomes quite attractive.
Properly leveraging investor capital in a value-add investment allows drastic improvements in apartment communities, thereby creating cleaner, safer places to live and making tenants happier.
Because investors have control over how and when renovations are executed, rather than relying solely on market appreciation, they have more options when it comes to safeguarding capital and maximizing returns.
Here at Blue Elm Investments, we provide multiple ways to leverage the power of real estate syndications in your investment portfolio so you can take advantage of real estate’s cash flow, equity, appreciation, and tax benefits.
If you’re accredited and looking to deploy capital, we invite you to sign up for our Investor Club to get access to our current or upcoming opportunities.