Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apartment Update And 3 Year Outlook

As Another Investor predicted about 2 hours before it actually happened, investors in the Houston apartment complex got a request to contribute more cash. The management company is asking for a total of $250,000 more from investors to make it through the year.

Management sent out budget projections for 2012 through 2014. The projections assume the complex will be sold at then end of 2014. (The original plan at purchase was to look at selling the property after 5 years, or in 2013.) Also, buried in a footnote, it says the projection also assumes no distributions of cash flow will be made to investors during 2012, 2013, and 2014. The monthly projection for 2012 shows the property losing money each month until June, when it returns to profitability for the remainder of the months of the year. Still finishes the year with an overall loss though.

The analysis also includes a look at the Houston economy and apartment market. In short, its been a very bumpy ride. Unemployment drops for a few months, then shoots back up one month, then drops for a couple more months. Occupancy at the property has consistently trended about 3 percentage points higher than the Houston apartment market in general, so that's one positive. However, that appears to be a result of having rents about $10 to $35 lower per unit than the market average.

Management predicts 2012 will be a turnaround year and the property should achieve breakeven status mid-year and return to profitability for 2013 and 2014. Management continues to defer their management fees to help keep expenses down. (Their contract gives them a percentage of the profit when the property sells, so they have a vested interested in getting the property back in the black.) The property itself is in good physical condition and should benefit from an improving economic environment.

Looking at selling the property at the end of 2014 using a 6.5% cap rate, they figure investors will get an annualized ROI of 10.77% on their initial investment. Just for the heck of it, I went back and looked at the original projections made at the time of purchase. The sale price after 5 years was $2 million higher than the current sales price projection and the investor's ROI was 20%.

Of course, management is trying to paint a rosy picture. Everything pretty much depends on the Houston economy picking up again. It looks like it is on the mend, but it is a very slow process which seems to be subject to frequent setbacks.

So.. Where does that leave us investors? Management says the property is operating very close to break even and with an additional $250,000, should be able to make it through 2012, after which they see the economy picking up. Investors are being asked to contribute a pro-rata share of $250,000 based on their initial investment amount. The investment was sold in $50,000 blocks, so they are asking for an additional $4,545 per block that you own. Investors are not required to contribute more, but if they do not, management warns that "alternative financing sources will be considered," which may or may not be available and will probably come with high interest rates and/or investment participation (meaning the lenders would become part owners of the property in exchange for lending funds). If any members do not fund their pro-rata share, the members that are contributing more will be contacted to see if they are willing to make up the shortfall before any alternative funding is obtained. Of course, everyone's ownership percentage will be adjusted to reflect any additional capital input. And should all that fail, losing the property to foreclosure is a possibility.

I think I'm going to pass on this. I might have contributed had the projections included some cash flow back to investors at some point, but it doesn't. I've always looked at this investment as a capital gains play. While I do appreciate the potential capital gains, over the past couple of years investing, I've realized I enjoy cashflow more than capital gains and I believe I can put my funds to better use elsewhere. That said, there are risks involved with not providing the additional funding. If the other investors do not step up, management might be forced to get a loan at a high interest rate, further reducing profits and increasing the time it takes to turn the property around. Or, they might need to give up some ownership of the property, which would reduce my share and hence, my return on my investment. And foreclosure is always a possibility, although I seriously doubt it will come to that.

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