Wednesday, October 23, 2013

HML #28 Paid Off And Looking Towards 2014

HML #28 was paid off on Friday. This loan was started just a few months ago in August and, at the time, we knew it was going to be a short loan. Out biggest borrower is not buying much these days because he feels people are paying too much at the foreclosure auctions. As a result, my partner has $1.2 million sitting around waiting to be re-invested and where I normally have four loans outstanding at any one time, I currently only have one.

This payoff was also strange in that this was the first time in the 7 or 8 years I have been doing this that I was required to go to the title agency and sign documents. As a mortgage holder that is being paid off, there isn't anything I normally have to sign and for those few things that do require a signature, my partner and I have a loan servicing agreement that gives him permission to act on my behalf. However, this particular title company was very picky and didn't want to accept that document, so I had to rush around a bit last week to locate a local branch of the title company, sign some documents and have them overnighted to the closing title company in California.

I've been thinking about the Houston apartment lately. The property is performing nicely now and I think management will look at putting the property up for sale near the end of the year or beginning of next year. Investors were guaranteed at least a 9% annualized return and the last time we received a profit distribution was October of 2009, so a sale would give us 4 years of accrued interest plus our share of whatever profit we make from the sale over our purchase price.

I'm trying to plan how to reinvest my money once this investment is over. (I know, I'm counting my chickens before they hatch.) I'm not sure I want to reinvest in an apartment complex right now. I do like the idea of apartment investing and plan to do it again in the future, but I'm not sure it's the next investment I want to make. For one, it's become clear that the performance of apartments is closely tied to the economic situation of the area. That's obvious and holds true for any real estate investment, but what this investment has shown me is that, because apartments have many tenants, a widespread economic downturn can result in the loss of many tenants. That can cause a cascade effect where property income drops and operating expenses don't get paid and investors can't get scheduled distributions.

Which brings me to my second point: apartments really are a business. They have operating expenses that have to be paid and maintenance and other activities to manage. As an investor, I didn't really have to deal with the day to day administration of such things because we have a management team that handles that. However, as was the case with this property, if things go downhill for a while, investors may be asked to contribute more money to help keep the business afloat. This is in contrast to investing money in a mortgage, where someone just sends you a check every month and a call for more money would be very rare. True, you may have to foreclose and then the mortgage investment can become like a business in that you'll have expenses like fix up and repair costs to sell the property. But on the whole, I think mortgage investing is a lot more hands-off than apartment investing. It also seems the cash flow is more stable, although that may just be due to the quality of the borrowers my partner deals with.

Overall, I think apartments tend to be more of an investment for those looking to get capital gains rather than monthly cashflow. I'm reasonably sure that, had I made this investment in a strong economy and did not have to suffer through 4 years of no cash flow, I would have a different opinion. In a strong economy, apartments probably do provide a robust cash flow. However, at this point in my investing career, I'm more interested in dependable cash flow than capital gains, so I'm leaning towards reinvesting these funds into hard money loans.


Another Investor said...

The general partner overpaid for this property. Had they understood the nature of the NOI and its variability, they would have applied a higher cap rate. The seller would not have accepted that offer, because there was another overly optimistic buyer in line behind your partnership. However, you and the rest of the partners would not be in this situation now.

You are absolutely correct in your observation that apartments are a business. Operating apartments is management intensive. The GP's team had experience, but they either were not familiar with the local market or they were just overly optimistic with the numbers. Replacing sloppy management helps, but if the fundamentals aren't there, it's not enough.

Shaun said...

You know, I bet if I go back and look at all the comments you've left year over the years, I would not find a single one approving any investment I've ever made. And yet, I've only lost money on one.

Another Investor said...

On the contrary. You are doing very well with your hard money lending. You found some good people to work with. You did ok with most of your local stuff, although I don't recall all the details. I never liked your Oklahoma investment, though, but it was an interesting experiment.

We have all learned a lot since, when was it when you started this blog, 2005? We are much better investors than at the peak of the market.

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