Investing Fundamentals

What is Real Estate Syndication?

Discover the potential of real estate syndication as an investment strategy.
by CrowdStreet

Introduction to Real Estate Syndication

As commercial real estate (“CRE”) markets move, real estate syndication investments may beckon those looking for portfolio diversity and potential tax advantages that may come with investments in CRE.

Real Estate Syndication: Defined

Real estate syndication is, at its core, a collaboration between investors. This collaborative investment avenue gives investors the opportunity to pool their resources together to finance a single investment. 

This approach potentially enables investors to access a more diverse array of real estate assets, including those assets that generally might be too large or complex for a single investor to fund on their own, such as a high-rise downtown multifamily apartment complex or a sprawling industrial park.

Why Real Estate Syndication is Important

So, as an investor, why should you care about real estate syndications?

Diversification Value

Diversity is typically an important consideration for investment portfolios.

Syndication enables investors to potentially enhance the diversification of their overall investment portfolios by participating in private commercial real estate opportunities that would typically be beyond their reach as individual investors. With lower minimum investment thresholds than investing in a property on one’s own, by participating in a syndication, investors also gain the ability to allocate their capital across a wider array of projects, potentially further increasing the diversity of their portfolio with a range of property types and locations.

Enhanced Accessibility 

Syndications generally provide better access to real estate assets than an individual may be able to access independently. 

Real estate investment syndicates can open up a wide variety of new opportunities for investors. These partnerships can act as a bridge between smaller, individual investors and the real estate opportunities that were historically the exclusive province of the uber-wealthy.

By leveling the playing field, syndications provide a broader spectrum of investors the ability to invest in commercial real estate. It’s also important to note that the passive investment nature inherent in many syndication opportunities may widen the accessibility of real estate investments, particularly for individuals who prefer a hands-off approach to managing their real estate investments.  

Real Estate Syndication Tax Advantages

Syndications may offer tax advantages for investors.1

Potential syndication tax benefits can include the ability to leverage depreciation on commercial real estate assets, giving investors the opportunity to benefit from significant “paper losses.” These losses, calculated through straight line or accelerated depreciation, can be carried over, often resulting in tax-free or tax-reduced distributions throughout the investment period.

Investors may also benefit from tax-free liquidity events via a cash-out refinance, lower capital gains tax rates, and 1031 exchange strategies, all of which we’ll cover in more detail below. Although it's important to note that tax aspects of such investments can be complex and may differ depending on the property or offering and on individual tax circumstances. Neither CrowdStreet or its affiliates offer tax or legal advice. Investors are strongly encouraged to seek advice from qualified tax professionals and/or legal experts regarding the tax consequences based on their particular circumstances'

How Real Estate Syndication Works

Real estate syndications work by pooling together capital from multiple investors to acquire and manage a real estate property (or portfolio).

Let’s take a look at the syndication process, step-by-step.

Overview of the Syndication Process


Step 1: Identifying the opportunity.

The syndicator identifies what they deem is a viable real estate investment opportunity and assesses its feasibility.


Step 2: Structuring the deal.

Now it’s time to determine the investment amount, and establish the legal framework, which is typically detailed in a PPM, also known as a Private Placement Memorandum. The syndicator will also need to adopt structures such as Limited Partnerships (LPs) or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) as well as define the investment model.


Step 3: Opening to investors.

The deal is opened to prospective investors, who contribute capital in exchange for an equity share in the property. This can be done directly by the syndicator or through online syndication platforms, like CrowdStreet.


Step 4: Ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory regimes.

The syndicator must ensure compliance with securities laws, generally operating under Regulation D of the Securities Act, to encourage transparency and fairness.


Step 5: Managing the property.

The syndicator, as the general partner or “GP,” generally manages the day-to-day operations of the property, including maintenance, tenant relations, and financial management.


Step 6: Distributing profits and losses.

Based on the established structure and investment model, profits and losses are distributed among the syndicator and investors. It is important, however, to remember distributions are never guaranteed.


Step 7: Concluding the investment.

Upon reaching the end term of the investment, or achieving investment goals, the property may be sold, and the final profits or losses are distributed amongst investors.


What is a syndicator?

A: A syndicator, also known in the industry as a “sponsor,” is an individual or entity that organizes the deal, raises capital, and manages the acquired property. In exchange, they typically receive a management fee and a share of the profits. Check out our handy guide to learn more about real estate sponsors.

What do syndicators do in a real estate syndication?

Syndicators identify investment opportunities, organize the deal structure, raise necessary capital from investors, and manage the day-to-day operations of the property. They also handle legal and financial responsibilities, carry out the project’s business plan, and, if there are distributions, distribute any profits to the investors, typically earning a management fee and a share of the profits for investors.

What do investors do in a real estate syndication?

Investors provide the capital needed to fund the property acquisition and related expenses. They typically have a passive role, relying on the syndicator to manage the investment, and may receive distributions through income generated by the property and property appreciation. However, it is important to remember, distributions are never guaranteed.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations for a Real Estate Investment Syndicate

Like any investment option, engaging in a real estate syndication requires adherence to specific legal considerations to avoid repercussions. This includes:

Real Estate Syndication Paperwork

-Drafting a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM

-Outlining Investment Details

-Compensation Procedures

-Fee Structures

-Income Distribution

-Operating Agreements (which provide management guidelines for the syndication)


Business Structure

It’s also important that the syndicator chooses a business structure that the investor believes aligns with their personal investment goals. Options like Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) and Limited Partnerships offer varying degrees of liability protection and potential passive income benefits, impacting taxes and monetary liabilities. 

Securities Regulation Compliance

Compliance with securities regulations is also absolutely essential. Real estate syndications, often falling under Regulation D exemptions, must navigate complex disclosure and reporting requirements set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Non-compliance can lead to criminal and civil penalties and increased capital-raising costs.

Tax Considerations

Real estate syndications’ tax implications are also incredibly important for syndicators and investors, with differences between the outcomes for each party. This difference necessitates legal guidance to mitigate risks and ensure adherence to associated rules and regulations. 


Common Structures and Investment Models in Syndicated Real Estate Deals

Understanding the deal structure is vital when investing in real estate syndications. The deal structure dictates how returns will be distributed among investors and general partners. As a reminder, distributions are never guaranteed.

Two of the most commonly used structures in real estate syndication companies are the Straight Split and the Waterfall Structure.

Syndicated Real Estate Straight Split Structure

The Straight Split is a straightforward structure where all returns, both cash flow and profits from the sale of the asset, are split at a fixed percentage between the limited partner investors (passive investors) and the general partners (deal sponsors). 

For instance, in an 80/20 split, 80% of all returns go to the passive investors, and 20% to the general partners. This structure can be particularly beneficial for passive investors in deals with high returns.

Syndicated Real Estate Waterfall Structure

The Waterfall Structure is more complex and often includes a preferred return. In this model, the first percentage of returns (e.g., 7%) goes entirely to the limited partner investors. Beyond this preferred return, the profit-sharing ratio changes at different thresholds, creating a "waterfall" effect. 

For example, returns between 7% and 14% might be split 70/30, and beyond 14%, the split could be 50/50. This structure aligns the interests of general partners and investors, incentivizing higher performance of the asset.

There is no one-size-fits-all structure in real estate syndications. Investors should carefully consider their personal investment goals, risk tolerance, and the specifics of each deal, including market conditions, the track record of the deal sponsor, and the business plan, to determine which structure aligns best with their objectives.

To learn more about real estate private equity structures, check out this in-depth guide: Understanding Real Estate Private Equity Structures.

Evaluating Real Estate Syndication Opportunities

Due diligence is perhaps the most mission-critical aspect of investing in any asset, whether you’re looking at blue chip stocks, T-Bills, or real estate syndication opportunities.

Criteria for Selecting a Real Estate Syndication

When selecting a real estate syndication, investors should consider various criteria such as the location and type of property, the market conditions, and the investment strategy. The investment’s alignment with the investor’s financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon is also crucial.

Assessing the Syndicator's Track Record and Experience

A syndicator’s experience and track record are pivotal in evaluating syndication opportunities. Investors should scrutinize the syndicator’s past performance, the success of previous deals, and their experience in managing properties in similar markets. 

Analyzing the Potential Risks and Rewards of the Investment

Investors must conduct a thorough analysis of the potential risks and rewards associated with the investment. This involves examining the property’s condition, market trends, economic indicators, and potential for appreciation. Understanding the risk-reward profile helps investors make informed decisions and align their expectations with the investment’s potential.

Due Diligence Process and Key Factors to Consider

Due diligence is a critical step in evaluating real estate syndication opportunities. Investors should verify the information provided by the syndicator, assess the financial projections, and evaluate the legal and regulatory aspects of the deal. 

Key factors many investors consider include the property’s location, valuation, occupancy rates, income potential, and any existing or potential legal issues. Additionally, reviewing the syndication’s business plan, exit strategy, and fee structure is essential to gauge the investment’s viability.

Learn how the CrowdStreet team performs rigorous due diligence on our listings.

Risks and Mitigation Strategies in Real Estate Syndication

Whether you’re looking at market fluctuations, property-specific uncertainties, or legal complexities, investors need to be aware of the dangers inherent in real estate syndication investing. 

Information is an investor’s greatest ally, and there are several steps every investor can take to inform themselves of the risk they face when investing in productive assets with real estate investment syndicates.

Real Estate Syndication Market Risks and Economic Factors

Market risks in real estate syndication stem from economic factors such as interest rate fluctuations, changes in property values, and shifts in supply and demand dynamics. Economic downturns or recessions can adversely impact property values and rental incomes, affecting the overall returns on investment. 

Property-Specific Risks and Contingencies

Property-specific risks pertain to issues directly related to the physical property, such as structural defects, maintenance requirements, or tenant turnover. Unforeseen events like natural disasters can also pose significant risks. Many syndicators conduct detailed property inspections, securing appropriate insurance coverage, and implementing effective property management strategies to maintain tenant satisfaction and occupancy rates.

Understanding the Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Real estate syndication companies operate within a complex legal and regulatory framework. Non-compliance with securities laws, zoning regulations, or contractual obligations can lead to legal repercussions and financial losses. Investors should work with experienced legal counsel to navigate the regulatory landscape, ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and address any legal issues that may arise.

Some Things to Consider Prior to Investing

Investors may want to adopt a multifaceted approach to potential risk mitigation. This includes conducting comprehensive due diligence, diversifying investment portfolios, and working with experienced and reputable syndicators and professionals. 

Maintaining open communication with syndicators and staying informed about the investment’s performance and market conditions can help investors make timely decisions and respond effectively to emerging risks.

As a reminder, an investment in a commercial real estate is highly speculative and involves a high degree of risk, including the risk of loss of the entire investment. All investors should consider their individual factors in consultation with a professional advisor of their choosing when deciding if an investment is appropriate. Direct and indirect purchase of real property involves significant risks, including without limitation market risks, risks related to the sale of land and risks specific to a given property, which could include the potential for property value loss, potential for foreclosure, changes in tax status and fees, and costs and expenses associated with management of such properties. All investors should consider risks specific to that given property prior to investing. 

To learn more, check out our article on the pros and cons of real estate syndication.

CrowdStreet, Inc. (“CrowdStreet”) offers investment opportunities and financial services on its website, the CrowdStreet Marketplace ("the Marketplace"). CrowdStreet offers broker dealer services through CrowdStreet Capital LLC (“CrowdStreet Capital”), a registered broker dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.

This article was written by an employee(s) of CrowdStreet and the contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. Neither this publication nor the financial professionals who authored it are rendering financial, legal, tax or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters, nor does the distribution of this publication to any person constitute an offer, recommendation, or solicitation to buy or sell any security or investment product issued by CrowdStreet or otherwise. The views and statements expressed are based upon the opinions of CrowdStreet. All information is from sources believed to be reliable. This article is not intended to be relied upon as advice to investors or potential investors and does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any investor. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of money you invest, and past performance does not guarantee future performance or success. All investors should consider such factors in consultation with a professional advisor of their choosing when deciding if an investment is appropriate. CrowdStreet assumes no liability in connection with the use of this publication. An investment in a private placement is highly speculative and involves a high degree of risk, including the risk of loss of the entire investment. Private placements are illiquid investments and are intended for investors who do not need a liquid investment. No guarantee or representation is made that a project will achieve its investment objectives or that investors will receive any return on their investment. Investors should consult with a financial advisor, attorney, accountant, and any other professional that can help you to understand and assess the risks associated with any investment opportunity. All investors should review the offering's documents carefully before investing.

All information, content, and materials referenced in this memo are for general informational purposes only. This memo may contain links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader and CrowdStreet nor its affiliates do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites. Any projections, opinions, assumptions or estimates used are for example only and do not represent the current or future performance of the subject thereof. All projections, forecasts, and estimates of returns or future performance, and other “forward-looking” information not purely historical in nature are based on assumptions, which are unlikely to be consistent with, and may differ materially from, actual events or conditions. Such forward-looking information only illustrates hypothetical results under certain assumptions.

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