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Investing your money wisely is all about asset allocation and risk tolerance. But risk is personal. It’s rare that any two investors will have the exact same appetite for risk and, depending on your financial status, your own opinions regarding risk might change from year to year.
When it comes to commercial real estate (CRE), different properties carry a different amount of risk, dictated by a multitude of factors including general market risk (the overall economic environment), asset-level risk, idiosyncratic risk (things specific to that property), liquidity risk (how easy is it to get out of an investment) and more. One of the most “risky” CRE investments is in Opportunistic real estate investments are the most high risk/high reward investment opportunities, requiring major development work. Opportunistic properties tend to need significant rehabilitation or are being built from the ground up. They have the chance to reach the highest rate of return for investors, but they little to no in-place cash flow at the time of acquisition and have the... More properties.
What is opportunistic real estate investing?
Generally speaking, opportunistic investing involves investing in misunderstood and/or deeply undervalued. “An opportunist buys things because they’re offered at bargain prices,” says Oaktree Capital Management’s Howard Marks in The Most Important Thing. As it pertains to real estate investing, opportunistic investing means investing in a property that needs significant rehab work to reach its full potential Market value is the price an asset would fetch in the public marketplace. In commercial real estate, market value can be impacted by the location of the property (major market versus rural), demand for that asset type (multifamily, office space, storage, etc), installed amenities and more.... More. Sometimes referred to as “Distressed Assets,” opportunistic CRE investment strategies may involve acquiring foreclosed assets from banks, or acquiring the senior loan at a substantial discount from banks. In commercial real estate, the sponsor is an individual or company in charge of finding, acquiring and managing the real estate property on behalf of the partnership. The sponsor is usually expected to invest anywhere from 5-20% of the total required equity capital. They are then responsible for raising the remaining funds and acquiring and managing the investment property’s day-to-day... More for these projects are often subject to less favorable debt terms and higher interest rates than those with more stabilized properties. These projects tend to offer the highest level of return (if the business plan is successful), but also come with the most risk for investors.
These are some of the most important risks to consider while evaluating opportunistic real estate investments:
Execution is paramount with opportunistic real estate investments. Why? Because these types of investments are significantly more complicated. Opportunistic real estate investments often require a complete overhaul of the property, structure, land, etc. These investments have a lot of moving parts and a lot of opportunity for something to go wrong–supplies cost more than expected, improvements take longer than planned, the sponsor runs out of time or money. As an investor, you want to ensure the sponsor has a strong, detailed improvement plan upfront. The more detailed, the better.
Management team certainly goes hand-in-hand with execution. You’ll want to be sure that the sponsor’s management team has experience working in distressed or opportunistic type opportunities with a proven track record of success. There are a lot of nuances when managing an opportunistic property that simply doesn’t exist with a Core commercial real estate investments are the least risky offering. They are often fully leased to quality tenets, have stabilized returns and require little to no major renovations. These properties are often in highly desirable locations in major markets and have long term leases in place with high credit tenants. These buildings are well-kept and require little to no improvements... More asset, and the only way to learn how to navigate those challenges properly is to have handled it before.
Opportunistic transactions tend to have higher levels of Leverage is the use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital to purchase and/or increase the potential return of investment. Assume a buyer puts 20% down on a $5M property. Essentially, they paid $1M to own something worth $5M. Assuming the property appreciates at 5% per year, the sponsor’s net worth would grow to $5,250,000 in a year. Had they... More and may have other forms of capital beyond equity involved, including mezzanine debt and preferred equity. It’s important to know where your investment falls in the capital stack as that will determine how/when you receive your distributions. If you are an equity investor in an opportunistic real estate opportunity with significant tranches of debt ahead of you, you need to know how that will affect your cash flow so you can plan accordingly.
Bankability and Backstop
Another component to the risk profile of opportunistic real estate investing is the bankability of the sponsor. In the event of a downside scenario or cost overruns, you want to ensure that you are working with a sponsor that could execute on these overruns (or find a proper solution for them) and not have to raise even more money from investors in order to keep the project running. Essentially, does the sponsor have enough of their own money in the bank to handle unexpected costs?
Studies have shown that these types of investments are actually less risky earlier on in the lifecycle and are riskier as time goes on. In order to mitigate this risk, you want to ensure the quick, efficient execution of a proper plan upfront. If the plan is carried out successfully upfront, the asset becomes de-risked and stabilized over time.
Let’s look at three examples to understand how you make the right decision from a numbers perspective. In the below scenarios, we assume that we purchase a building for $100 million. Each building purchase corresponds to the investment strategy.
- Core Plus: We assume that the sponsor used 50% debt leverage, so they raise $50 million of equity. The cash flow is based on a 7% The capitalization, or “cap”, rate is used in commercial real estate to indicate the rate of return that is expected to be generated on a real estate investment property. The calculation is based on the Net Operating Income the property generates divided by the Purchase Price. Lower cap rates (3-5%) generally point to safer / less risky investments and are... More on your equity. We see a modest bump in value appreciation at an exit in year five from debt repayment.
- Value Add: We assume that the sponsor used 60% debt leverage, so they raise $40 million of equity. The cash flow is based on an 8% cap rate on your equity. In year three, they make operational additions to improve cash flow to 9% cap rate off our initial cost of equity. They then sell the stability asset for a 7% cap rate.
- Opportunistic: We assume 70% debt leverage, so the sponsor raises $30 million of equity. There is no cash flow in the first two years and the investor pool to invest $2 million of additional equity to improve the building. From there cash flow increases and stabilizes by year five, and then the sponsor sells the asset.
As you can see from the scenarios above, opportunistic relies heavily on leverage, operational improvements AND a favorable exit.
What drives the risks? The real quantitative risks with opportunistic real estate include:
- Appropriate exit environment: While you can provide value under your own control, there are matters that you just can’t control. Given that much of the return is driven off the exit, you are much more sensitive to the timing of when the sponsor ultimately decides to sell the property.
- Execution: You aren’t investing for interim cash flow. You are investing under a kind of buy-and-lip mentality, where the majority of your returns come after the sale of the property.
Opportunistic investing is a great way for real estate investors to gain exposure to a Properties are considered value-add when they have management or operational problems, require some physical improvements and/or suffer from capital constraints. By making physical improvements to the asset that will allow it to command higher rents – remodeling the kitchens in multi-family, installing more energy efficient heating systems in a medical office, etc. – improve the quality of tenants and increase... More strategy that can have very favorable risk-adjusted returns, but opportunistic investing isn’t for the faint of heart or beginner investors. The best suited opportunistic investors are highly experienced, savvy investors that understand the full real estate investment lifecycle.